Given the title of this show, you might have been expecting action, adventure and plenty of pyrotechnics. If that’s the case, I’ll have to disappoint you. However, if you’re after a gentle, slow-moving exploration of the human memory, you’re in luck. Performer Sylvia Rimat takes the audience of I Guess if the Stage Exploded... through a variety of memory exercises and surreal encounters, interspersed with recordings of neuroscientists, psychologists and others discussing ways in which we can teach ourselves to remember more effectively.
The opening of the show was certainly memorable for me: I was one of seven audience members selected to be introduced by name on stage and given a round of applause. The show is full of this kind of audience interaction, which makes you feel noticed and appreciated but not under pressure or put on the spot. In fact, that’s really the tone of the whole show. It’s weird, certainly, but gentle and unthreatening. Some of the stranger episodes involve a Skype link with a party in Sydney and a dance Rimat does while wearing a lampshade. A special guest towards the end inspired gasps and coos from the audience. It all happens at a steady pace, lulling you pleasantly.
Occasionally the show moves a little too slowly. Repetition, for example, might be an excellent memory technique but as a theatrical one it’s less than compelling. Plenty of the show’s sections require a little set-up and, as the only performer, Rimat sometimes spends too long offstage getting a guest or waiting for a video link to be set up.
On balance, this show is charming: tender and enjoyable, but also informative. Yet I can’t help feeling that there’s something a little self-defeating about a show which aims simply to be remembered. One of the neuroscientists points out that people want to be remembered for something, to feel like they’ve left a meaningful legacy. When Rimat puts an emphasis simply on the audience’s remembering their encounter with her, on how this moment can be preserved, it feels dangerously as though she is celebrating memory for its own sake, rather than wanting to create something worth remembering.