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REVIEW: This is Memorial device (play)

28 March 2024

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

⭐⭐⭐ (Preview performance)


Paul Higgins in This is Memorial Device. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

This is Memorial Device is an award-winning play by Graham Eatough adapted from the book of the same name by David Keenan. Starring the wonderful Paul Higgins, it has played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the previous two years and has generated a genuine word-of-mouth buzz.


Recounting the legend of a fictional 1980s post-punk band from Airdrie, This is Memorial Device the novel has amassed a huge cult following since its release in 2017, and the adapted play seems to have gained plenty of fans too. Now stepping out of the bars of the Fringe and into the theatres of Scotland on tour for the first time, 'Memorial Device' are about to reach a new audience.


As the play opens, a slightly nervous Ross Raymond (Paul Higgins) walks on stage, welcomes us all and thanks us for coming together to remember. It's obvious from Ross's every word and facial expression that he's a 'Memorial Device' superfan as well as the editor of their short-lived fanzine.


Over the next hour or so we hear from Ross and from a number of other individuals whose lives have been touched by the legendary band, Memorial Device. Through these memories we start to piece together an understanding of what it was like to be in Airdrie in the 1980s, to pass these greats in the street, to witness them on stage, or just to play their records. The accounts overlap and conflict with one another, but such is the nature of memory. Just how big, how successful and how famous were this band really?


Paul Higgins in This is Memorial Device. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

This is Memorial Device is a surreal exploration into the cult of fandom and the joy of a common passion. No matter that everyone remembers and appreciates the band differently, they left an impact on their lives.


The play is very well constructed: Taking us from their North Lanarkshire roots and influences, through to their big moments on stage, Ross brings us into his world, presents the band, tells their stories and even plays their instruments for them. Paul Higgins gives a masterful performance as our slightly apprehensive but wildly fervent host. He's simply incredible.


The play features music by Stephen McRobbie from Glasgow band The Pastels, and what we hear of it is exciting and intriguing. I would've liked the music to have been more prominent. But then I remind myself that this is not a music gig: it's a story, folklore.


Paul Higgins in This is Memorial Device. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

This is Memorial Device is not entirely what I expected. It's pretty unique in its offering: not comedy, not drama, not a musical, not music but rather a study - a combination of vox pox's and anecdotes. And as that, it succeeds completely. But there's no denying it's an odd hour in a theatre. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I loved the idea of it, and the presentation of it... I really enjoyed all the individual stories; but I wanted something more.


What it has made we want to do is to read David Kennan's novel. I want to find out more about Memorial Device, their fans and Ross Raymond. I want to listen to The Pastels... and to see everything that Paul Higgins ever does in future. So in that sense, I guess, I am a fan. Sign me up for the fanzine immediately.


⭐⭐⭐


Paul Higgins, star of This is Memorial Device, said “I really am delighted to be working again on a show that meant so much to so many people who saw it. It’s great the brilliant team is getting back together to bring it to a wider audience in Scotland and London. It’s a show that speaks to anyone who hopes there might be more to being alive than there appears to be on the surface.


Praise for David Keenan’s Novel:

WINNER OF THE COLLYER BRISTOW PRIZE FOR A DEBUT NOVEL

SHORTLISTED FOR THE GORDON BURN PRIZE 

ROUGH TRADE BOOK OF THE MONTH

LRB BOOK OF THE WEEK

CAUGHT BY THE RIVER BOOK OF THE MONTH

SHORTLISTED FOR THE COLLYER BRISTOW PRIZE


This is Memorial Device was developed with the support of the Stephen W Dunn Theatre Fund and originally produced in a co-production with the Edinburgh International Book Festival.


📸 Production photos: Mihaela Bodlovic


Paul Higgins in This is Memorial Device. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

 

❔What will be the next big show to come out of Edinburgh Festival Fringe?


 

Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh presents

This is Memorial Device

Adapted and Directed by Graham Eatough from the novel by David Keenan


Recommended Age 14+

Contains Strong Language


This is Memorial Device: Scottish Tour and London Dates

27 March - 11 May 2024


  • Tron Theatre, Glasgow - 27-30 March

  • Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh - 3-6 April

  • Lemon Tree, Aberdeen - 18-20 April

  • Riverside Studios, London - 23 April - 11 May


This is Memorial Device: Dates and Times


Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Wednesday 27 - Saturday 30 March 2024

7.30pm (Saturday Matinee at 2.30pm)

£15.50-£20www.tron.co.uk 


Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Wednesday 3 - Saturday 6 April 2024

7.30pm (Saturday Matinee at 2pm)


Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

Thursday 18 - Saturday 20 April 2024

7.30pm (Saturday Matinee at 2.30pm)

£16.50


Riverside Studios, London

Tuesday 23 April - Saturday 11 May 2024

7.45pm (Wednesday and Saturday Matinees at 2.30pm, not 24 April)

£30 (£20 concession)


 

This is Memorial Device Cast and Creatives


Cast - Paul Higgins

Director - Graham Eatough

Set and Costume Design - Anna Orton

Music - Stephen Pastel and Gav Thomson

Lighting Design - Nigel Edwards

Sound Design - Gav Thomson

Video Design - Martin Clark

Movement Director - Kally Lloyd-Jones

Graphics Props - Yedsy

Producers - Neil Murray and Callum Smith


About Paul Higgins


Paul is best known for his memorable roles in THE THICK OF IT (BBC), LINE OF DUTY (BBC), UTOPIA (Channel 4), COLD CALL (Channel 5) and most recently THE IPCRESS FILE (ITV) and SLOW HORSES (Apple+). Paul’s film credits include Armando Iannucci’s IN THE LOOP, BIFA nominated COUPLE IN A HOLE, Stephen Frears’ VICTORIA AND ABDUL alongside Dame Judi Dench and Michael Winterbottom’s feature GREED opposite Steve Coogan. He will next be seen in the lead role of Rodger Griffith’s feature directorial debut KILL.


On stage, Paul was most recently seen in Rebecca Frecknall’s critically acclaimed ROMEO & JULIET (The Almeida). His other extensive theatre credits include Brian Friel’s ARISTOCRATS (Donmar Warehouse), THE WHITE GUARD (National Theatre), THE SEAGULL (Lyric Hammersmith), Robert Icke’s THE DOCTOR (The Almeida), Giles Terera’s THE MEANING OF ZONG (Bristol Old Vic), THIS IS MEMORIAL DEVICE (Lyceum Theatre/Edinburgh Book Festival) and LOCAL HERO (Chichester Festival Theatre).

 

REVIEW: This is Memorial device (play) Adapted and Directed by Graham Eatough from the novel by David Keenan, starring Paul Higgins


🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange for my time and for writing this review. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and review invites do not have any impact on my analysis or star ratings.



📸 Find Lisa in the Theatre on Instagram for more photos and videos.


Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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