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The Department of Unreliable Memoirs
Published on Friday, 11 May 2012

4 stars

The Old Market (venue website)
9, 16-17, 23-24 May, 2:00pm-2:10pm, 2:10pm-2:20pm, 2:20pm-2:30pm, 2:30pm-2:40pm, 2:40pm-2:50pm, 2:50pm-3:00pm, 3:00pm-3:10pm, 3:10pm-3:20pm, 3:20pm-3:30pm, 3:30pm-3:40pm, 3:40pm-3:50pm, 3:50pm-4:00pm, 4:00pm-4:10pm, 4:10pm-4:20pm, 4:20pm-4:30pm, 4:30pm-4:40pm, 4:40pm-4:50pm, 4:50pm-5:00pm, 8:00pm-8:10pm, 8:10pm-8:20pm, 8:20pm-8:30pm, 8:30pm-8:40pm, 8:40pm-8:50pm, 8:50pm-9:00pm, 9:00pm-9:10pm, 9:10pm-9:20pm, 9:20pm-9:30pm, 9:30pm-9:40pm, 9:40pm-9:50pm, 9:50pm-10:00pm, 10:00pm-10:10pm, 10:10pm-10:20pm, 10:20pm-10:30pm, 10:30pm-10:40pm, 10:40pm-10:50pm, 10:50pm-11:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.

It's happened to all of us, at one time or another. Someone comes up to you with a big smile, a friendly handshake and some anecdotes about the things you've done together - yet you simply haven't a clue who they are. In The Department Of Unreliable Memoirs, a 10-minute interactive experience for an audience of just one, you'll find that problem writ large; for you've forgotten not just the stranger's name, but your own identity and past.

So you do what you always do in the face of such social calamity. You bluff. In my case, I soon discovered I was an international rock star - the old clichés are the best - on the cover of that week's NME. Before long I was spouting with confidence on my rider, my groupies and my breakthrough album, Rock Out Hove ("You'd think it would be quite niche," they dryly observed).

It sounds like you'd be under a fair bit of pressure, but it doesn't feel that way at all. My two hosts proved skilled at asking gently leading questions, guiding the plot - such as it is - while inviting me to fill the details in. By the end of it, we'd cooked up between us a completely preposterous storyline, involving a gig at the Albert Hall, an imaginary Afro wig and a double-date with Theo Paphitis out of Dragons' Den.

If that all sounds a bit random, I'm afraid the fault's entirely mine. I threw in as many curve balls as I could - even using my superstar power to banish one of the cast halfway through - but the staff of the Department took it all in their stride. It would be interesting to know how they cope with a more reticent audience, but they're certainly prepared; a handy crib card tells you, in one simple rule, exactly what to say if your imagination fails.

True, this has all been done many times before, and it's not as though you're going to gain any life-changing insights from ten minutes spent in someone else's skin. But where is it written that theatre must be meaningful? Sometimes, it's enough to say it's fun. This was great fun, an experience to remember - and yes, Brightonians, thoroughly worth that schlep across the border into Hove.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.