You deserve to head into Everything Not Saved with as few of its delights spoiled for you as possible. As a play it dissembles and shifts, shadow-boxing with the audience’s expectations, something of an intellectual tease. If that makes it sound deliberately arcane, like a latter-day David Lynch work – esoteric to the point where it alienates your interest – don’t be concerned. Here’s a production that never loses sight of the audience, keen to challenge but also entertain.
What can you be told, then, without the show’s intrigue dissipating? As the company, Dublin’s Malaprop Theatre, assert themselves, it’s a show about memory (but not nostalgia). It’s a triptych of scenes – one depicting an uneasy photo shoot in an English garden, the second a police interrogation, the third, an audition for the role of Rasputin in a music video. The three performers – John Doran, Breffni Holahan and Maeve O’Mahony – shift time, accent and gender with easy grace. They’re all crafty, intriguing performers.
Each vignette interrogates the limitations of memory in a different fashion: how a falsehood can lead us closer to the emotional truth of a forgotten moment, how cultural currency limits and expands our knowledge of history, how memories warp in our minds as we re-visit them.
Director Claire O’Reilly makes inventive, economical use of the stage and sound, ably assisted by crisp, clear sound design from Brian Fallon. The vividness of the staging is almost ironic, as the play itself reminds us of how little we’ll accurately recall of it.
Memory is a slippery, flawed system for holding our past in. Everything Not Saved smartly, and humorously, asks us to challenge what we so often take for granted. It reminds us of the folly of absolute certainty, of the transience of our lifespans, of just how odd it is to think we know anything at all. Everything not saved will be lost, our quit screens used to tell us. But is everything saved lost too?