Living Memory

Directed by Daniel Meilleur, Israel Festival, May 29.

Living memory (photo credit: Yves Dube)
Living memory
(photo credit: Yves Dube)
Last week’s performance of Living Memory, director Daniel Meilleur confided with bashful charm, was the last. The production has been seen all over the world since it opened in Quebec in 2001, and the Israel Festival was its swan song.
Merriam-Webster defines swan song as “a song of great sweetness said to be sung by a dying swan.”
The definition fits beautifully, in a way. A swan is a metaphor for grace, beauty and lyricism. Living Memory has these in abundance.
Actress Véronique Marchand, with gentle authority and great charm, portrays a woman who is “100 and a bit,” who is leaving life, if indeed she hasn’t already left it, and who shares with us its memories, especially those of childhood.
Childhood is the most intense period of our lives, a time when living is absolute and if we can take with us some of that on “the train of life” the memories will keep alive the child within us, the child that allows us to play, to hope even in the worst of times.
In the end, she tells us, we each of us make our own world.
Vastly sophisticated multimedia technology buttresses Living Memory, but it’s the homeliness and fairy tale that keep it accessible. A tiny train whose engine is a toaster removes and then later brings back beloved toys, a teddy-bear, a stuffed rabbit, a sheep, a hula-doll.
There’s a toy tank that shoots balloons, but which the “child” faces down.
Finally, serenely, the old woman allows death to claim her.
“It’s your turn now,” she tells us, having sung her song of “great sweetness.” Living Memory has heart.