Review: Short Memory, Golden Goose Theatre

A live choir is just part of the show in high finance/Alzheimer’s drama Short Memory at Camberwell’s Golden Goose Theatre

“I can’t remember how many times I’ve sung it”

Richard Roques takes on a lot with his play Short Memory – generational family drama, the world of high finance, Alzheimer’s, choral societies and gay sex to Zadok the Priest. It’s an ambitious combination and there’s much to commend his self-directed work here at Camberwell’s Golden Goose Theatre, which is blessed by some exquisite live singing from its very own choir.

Three generations of this family have worked the stock markets. Gerald is in the thick of it at the head of his highly successful fund. His son Simon reluctantly joins him, mainly as the only way to have any relationship with his absent father. And Adam is long retired, enjoying life as a chorister and it is through annual performances of Handel’s Messiah that the play takes its structure.

The first time we meet them, Simon only has eyes for Jack, the fit young singer next to his gramps, Adam is showing signs of losing his memory and no-one is surprised that Gerald hasn’t turned up because of work commitments. And dipping in on a largely annual basis, there’s a lovely progression through Jack and Simon’s new relationship and also Alan and Nancy’s marriage as it faces the challenges of his ailing health. 

Alongside this is a slow-burning financial thriller which never quite ignites untl the end. It’s a bit of a shame that it is Nancy who serves as our route into the show’s explanations of the financial world, feeling retrograde in making the only woman in the cast act as the ‘idiot’ in this regard, not least since she’s been married to a banker for forty-odd years. The writing is on stronger ground when questioning the ethics of high finance but even to the end, the script is weighted down with a need to explain rather than dramatise.

The choral inserts are thrilling, especially in so intimate a space. Perhaps it is a logistical issue but it does seem a shame that we revert to recorded music in some scenes when the choir and accompanist are sitting right there. And given the laborious nature of some of the scene changes, it feels a missed opportunity to further utilise the choir to fill those voids and maintain the show’s energy, matching the committed work from the cast. 

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Miles Elliott
Small Memory is booking at the Golden Goose Theatre until 23rd April

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