Memorial

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Memorial
Published 04 Mar 2018

Hundreds of dead lie on the stage of the Dunstan Playhouse and raise their arms like cornstalks into the dawn sun. One by one, each death in The Iliad is marked as Helen Morse stands in a blood red dress and calls them forth to be remembered and mourned. A choir of over two hundred people forms a ghostly presence moving fluidly across the stage in a rhythmic torrent of bodies that both lulls and overwhelms the audience.

This memorial for the dead is deeply moving and utterly poetic. Without the narrative of The Iliad each death floats free of meaning and becomes a testament to the senselessness of war. Morse feels and mourns every one – those who die, those who kill and are killed in turn.

The text from poet Alice Oswald is metaphorically rich and weaves breathtaking images that are echoed by the live band and haunting vocals. Despite the pseudo-historical context, each soldier's death is felt very deeply. Morse's solemn testament to their erased lives allows the audience to see their humanity once more. The thematic relevance to the current time is palpable. Memorial cuts through the horror and emotional exhaustion that clouds political reporting of war. These are deaths. They are people. There are too many names to mourn.