REVIEW: Barking Spider Visual Theatre Presents THE MEMORANDIUM

Because good theatre is a real experience

By Myron My

As you enter the stage of The Memorandium to be greeted with cups of hot chocolate by the performers Penelope Bartlau and Leah Scholes, you know this will not be an ordinary theatre experience.

The premise of the show is quite simple: audience members choose a stick with a number on it, which correlates to a wrapped package. As the audience member unwraps it, we are asked to share what memories this item stirs in us. The items are random: teapots, teddy bears, passports, coins…  Using these memories, Bartlau creates wonderful stories for the audience which leaves us with big gaping smiles like we’re children gathered around grandmother for a story before bed.

Bartlau has a skillful storytelling technique and her descriptive language and facial expressions allow you to very easily visualize the tale told.  She and composer/performer Scholes play exceptionally well together to the point where you were wondering if this is actually improvised. It is. Moreover, you can clearly see they are giving each other a good time with their onstage give-and-take over the direction the story takes. The accompanying music is also improvised, with Scholes using anything on stage to create sounds that perfectly blend into the story.

The mood in the audience as we heard these stories went from a room full of strangers to a connected mind, and after the show when you were free to roam through the set we were chatting as if we were old friends.

The stage setting was impeccably detailed with all the miscellany one would expect to find at anyone’s home including all the various items they would have collected over the years, from toys and instruments to crockery and clothing. I don’t believe any amount of describing could do this set justice but to say that designer Jason Lehane has an amazing eye for design would be an understatement.

The experience of The Memorandium makes you realize we are all full of memories and everything has a story behind it, if we just stop to think about it and share them. Leaving the theatre, you can’t help but have a warm and fuzzy feeling inside you – almost like you’ve just had a nice cup of hot chocolate theatre.

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 1 September| Wed to Sat 8:00pm, Sat 5:00pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $29 Conc
Bookings: 03 9534 3388 or