Recollection (fortyfivedownstairs) – theatre review

Olivia (Eve Morey) is heartbroken. Her bright, talented, intelligent, 16-year-old daughter Molly (Molly Holohan) – an artist in the making – recently tragically passed away. Although the pair clearly loved one another, there were elements of Molly’s life about which wedding photographer Olivia knew little.

Molly had struck up a friendship with a poor, headstrong new school mate, Jenna (Mish Keating), who Olivia didn’t much care for. She saw Jenna as a bad influence, given her recklessness and tendency towards self-destruction. But Molly was clearly attracted to Jenna, who thought nothing of wagging school and smoking pot with her disabled father, who was growing increasingly erratic.

Molly and Jenna spent increasing amounts of time together and their relationship turned physical. And then Molly died. Olivia is desperate to keep Molly close and turns to a specialist perfumer Ariana (Ravenna Bouckaert) to recreate her scent. She brings Ariana items of clothing, jewellery, an unwashed pillowcase and more that Molly had worn or came into contact with. It is a slow, but deliberate process.

In the meantime, Olivia and we – the audience – learn more about Molly and Jenna and what the pair meant to each other. Profound, expressive and creative, Recollection is the work of Georgia Ketels who shows great insight in her writing. The play was a finalist in Midsumma’s Queer Playwriting Award in 2021 and it is not hard to see why. It deals with love and loss in a unique manner. It is comedic and poignant.

The performances are mighty. There is a naturalism and spark about them. Care, grief, emptiness and yearning are apparent in Eve Morey. Molly Holohan brings naivete, curiosity and enthusiasm to her portrayal of Molly. There is a devil-may-care attitude and a laid-back nature, along with vulnerability, that Mish Keating imbues in Jenna. Keating is a real scene stealer. Ravenna Bouckaert displays warmth, consideration and professionalism in her role as Ariana.

Scent plays a large part in proceedings, helping to piece together the person that was. Introducing the tangible aroma of memories is scent artist Erin Adams. Recollection unfolds against an expansive and intriguing set design. Set and costume designer Eloise Kent was responsible. The backdrop is a collection of cabinetry – shelves and cupboards – and windows, complete with a surfeit of glassware and flower arrangements.

Furniture slides in and out of this straight-line set-up, with evocative lighting by Emma Lockhart-Wilson and a diverse soundscape by Jess Keeffe setting the mood. The production builds momentum and had me welling up and appreciative as director Cathy Hunt allows the material to breathe. The significance of the writing shouldn’t be underestimated, nor the strength of the piece as a whole, courtesy of some fine acting.

Recollection is memorable and is on at fortyfivedownstairs until 7th July, 2024.

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy: