Mem Morrison, Lilac

Review in Issue 12-4 | Winter 2000

When Mem Morrison’s mother was married, she was married in lilac. On the wedding photographs, however, her dress appears white. This blanking out of the primary colour of someone’s life is the starting point for the production. At the same time as shifting through a literal colour spectrum onstage (reflected in the costumes, lighting and props against a stark minimalist set), Morrison tries to make sense of his relationship with his parents – a puzzle-solving that uses colour as a powerful metaphor for the different shades of meaning that tint one’s life.

The piece is episodic in format, and some sections are stronger than others. One piece in particular, in which the relationship between a father and son is pitched perfectly on a mat of brilliant green Astroturf, is evocative, touching and sincere. Other sections lack the truthfulness that make this episode work so well, and this is particularly an effect of Morrison’s performance style. Whilst appearing to deliver most of the text directly to the audience, Morrison fails to actually engage us, and the semblance of intimacy is masked by a rather over-dramatic and affected tone that swings from disengaging to just annoying.

Because the visual aspects of the piece are so simple and understated (an effective sparseness that renders a clean palette upon which Morrison can draw his ideas), the imagery shifts into the imaginations of the audience via the text. When the text fails to engage, the bare bones that are left are not quite enough to hang a full-length show on. Whilst there are dashes of vibrant colour in this work, its basecoat never really moves out of a mid-shade of grey.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2000

This article in the magazine

Issue 12-4
p. 25