Watching Heather Lister’s story of a blind teenager on the verge of leaving home recalling the events which led to his loss of sight and the subsequent fragmentation of his parents’ relationship, one is reminded that theatre need not always have a profound thematic subtext to make for a thoughtful and entertaining evening – sometimes a worthwhile narrative is enough.
Far from allowing her central character Sam’s blindness to limit his stage presence, Lister gives him an assortment of pithy, pragmatic and poetic monologues which are imbued with both realism and romance by Andy Kelly. Staring blankly out into the audience, he brings to life the various locations which this splintered family unit reminisce about over the course of the evening, as they explore their varying, often conflicting, views of incidents past. Director Andy Burden facilitates these musings on the fallibility of remembrance and the significance with which different people invest specific moments with a complex lighting design that punctures the real-time action with spotlighted flashbacks and occasional ventures into complete darkness. Although sometimes incoherent and off-cue, the approach does well to bring to mind the ‘memory play’ dramaturgy of Williams’ The Glass Menagerie; a subtler, less predictably green-saturated design from Natalie Remington may well have compounded this tone further.
Considering the piece’s short running time (of just fifty minutes), Suzannah Hampton and Dan Winter’s performances as quarrelling parents could have been better paced to create a sense of character development. There’s no denying that both handle the play’s argumentative patter with vehement, engaging gusto, but where it seems that Lister envisaged the cracks in a marriage slowly widening out to chasms, Ellie and Jim are here seen going at each other hammer-and-tongs from the word go. In fact, it is as the evening draws to a close and the pair’s voices begin to soften, that the relationship between the two begins to feel genuine for the first time; if this is Hampton and Winter settling into their characters, the prospects for the rest of the run are bright.
Other plays in Theatre West’s season at the Alma have floundered by falling into the trap of wrongly perceiving the need to fill a single act with as many twists, turns and revelations as possible. It is undeniably refreshing to witness I Remember Green snub an explosive finale in favour of a wry joke and a smile; in her closing scene, as throughout, Lister delivers a theatrical parcel that is endearingly unassuming and sweet.
I Remember Green is playing at the Alma Tavern and Theatre until 26 November. For more information and tickets, see the Alma Tavern and Theatre website.