A glimpse into everyday family tensions, the intimacy of Source Amnesia is compromised by its video format, says Monique Grbec
Source amnesia is the ability to retain factual knowledge while forgetting where, when or how the information was acquired. It is a branch of amnesia everybody experiences every day.Written and directed by Bella Singal and Adrian Fermandez, the Melbourne Fringe show Source Amnesia explores this concept with a series of vignettes of everyday life.
It opens with a video meeting between a daughter and her youthful-looking father in their neat, charmless, washed-out beige and white living spaces. There is an amusing yet unremarkable prompt for the father to turn his mute off and then: “Dad tell me, tell me what happened?”
We learn that the father has called his latest carer a little bitch and accused her of stealing a watch. He scoffs at a further accusation that he threatened her with a curtain rod. Surely he isn’t strong enough? The carer has left in tears.
“She’s raving mad,” the father insists: “Stole my watch… that’s why I left a trap.”
“I don’t know what to do?” The daughter’s frustration is palpable. Surely the watch has no value.
“Sentimental value,” the father insists, so the daughter suggests he hid the watch in his secret cupboard behind the fridge. The father’s anxiety peaks: “Have you been in my cupboard?”
“I can’t come every day,” says the daughter as her father walks to the fridge to look in his secret cupboard. He comes back happily securing the watch to his wrist.
“Lucky I hid it.”
He is very pleased with himself.
There is mention of a sister, another daughter who leaves her father to himself. A sister who doesn’t worry and make drama but… “I’m going to leave Melbourne,” the daughter in the video meeting says.
“Rats leaving the ship,” sneers the father, when she tells him she has a new job in New Zealand. “It never stops raining there,” he says. We learn that she has told him about her new job many times before, and that this is the main reason why she needs to find him a reliable carer.
There is a new video image with a warmer, red brick wall background. There is a person lying on the couch and a muffled voice: “I’ve replaced all the sleeping pills with Panadol.”
Laura, a replacement carer, joins the meeting. The father flirtatiously feigns recognition, telling her he was a tap dancer. The daughter corrects him, explaining that he was an engineer who has “a special brand of humour”.
The father tells Laura that his daughter has moved into his big expensive house and that she wants it for herself. He says that she won’t get it because she will die first, and “I’m going to inherit from her.” He boasts: “I will make a little speech at her funeral…”
His voice petering off, he adds: “All I want is for people to bugger off and leave me to my peace.”
The screen is darkly shadowed in the way of a television interrogation. with one person in the foreground and another in the background. A distant voice over calls for “Doctor Bruce”.
The person in the background nervously fills the silence: “So are you scared?” She doesn’t wait for a a reply: “Don’t worry it’s all in your mind.” She recalls vague suggestions that a healthy way of life has cured many people of diseases.”
The person in the foreground is dismissive: “Cured from cancer?”
“Uncle has had a stroke and might be dying.”
The patient is devastated: “Why would you tell me that? …You thought that hearing about someone whose condition was worse than mine might make me feel better?”
“Have you spoken to a lawyer about a will?”
Another darkened vignette introduces “projected trauma” from mother to daughter and the challenge that she is “embarrassed that I’m your daughter.” There is a girlfriend in the background and the mention of hungry ghosts.
The final vignette returns to the video meeting format and introduces a boyfriend who bemoans a cancelled holiday and that the father is still living at the daughter’s home. “Anyone else would pressure you to do what the situation calls for.”
From the side the father says: “I’m not senile, you know.”
While the video format of these vignettes offers an intimate insight of the experience of video meetings, it doesn’t match the ability of live performance to create an atmosphere for the where, when and how we experience the stories of others. With the multisensory vibrations of sound, silence and action of live theatre, I feel that these glimpses of everyday life cloistered by the experiences of death and sickness would truly come to life.
Source Amnesia, written and directed by Bella Singal and Adrian Fernandez.Melbourne Fringe until November 29. Bookings