This is Memorial Device review – Riverside Studios, London ★★★☆☆

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Review by Natalie Evans

Based on David Keenan’s cult classic novel, This is Memorial Device is a love song to the early 80’s punk scene, and local legends of the industry that never quite got further than their small town stardom – using fictional band Memorial Device and their amnesiac frontman Lucas as an exemplar.

The tale is told by Ross Raymond, a superfan who seemingly worships the very ground the band walks on. His love for each of the members individually ranges from platonic to familial, to romantic, to sexual, and right back to celestial – viewing them as almost godlike beings.

However, it is Ross that maketh man in this production, populating the world he has invited us into onstage as he builds the mannequins that represent his idols, breathing life into them with his poetic descriptions and delicate puppeteering.

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Paul Higgins perfectly encapsulates Ross’s passionate and enigmatic persona, enrapturing the audience with beautiful words and a desperate vulnerability that is incredibly moving in its honesty. This, supported by intricately detailed set, costume, lighting & sound designs, made for an impressively executed production.

The passion that Ross speaks with is truly inspiring. It reminds us of the importance of art in terms of its ability to connect people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Not to mention how creativity is often one of the last things to give out when the brain deteriorates.

Unfortunately though, the incessant repetition of the same point about Lucas’s unique genius gradually turned what started out as a profound point about the simultaneous vitality and rarity of genuinely living in the moment into the obsessive ramblings of a lonely man stuck forever in that same moment, telling us about how even at the time he wasn’t really living his own life, but rather stalking these artists and living vicariously through them.

All in all, it was an excellent show – It was just about 20 minutes too long for me and went in a few too many circles without ever reaching an end. Had it simply been trimmed and condensed, I think I would have remained enthralled rather than disengaging at about the 50 minute mark.

This is Memorial Device is at Riverside Studios until 11 May 2024