INTERVIEW and REVIEW: Mikala Westall | Latitudes

Mikala Westall's Latitudes interview for X-Press





















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Originally appeared in X-Press magazine print issue 1488. Available on ISSUU digitally here.


The review may have originally appeared in X-Press magazine digital app issue 1489, but I’m not sure, because the app is a total disaster, and I can’t read anything on it.




How accurate is your memory? How far back in the past can you recall events, people, places before things get hazy? Have you ever been told your memory of something is wrong? These are the kinds of questions The Lost Boys ask in their foamy otherworld Latitudes. Written by Mark Walsh and directed by Lost Boys founder Mikala Westall, Latitudes explores the murky waters of memory and the things we might find submerged there.


What a vast and complex idea memory is, and how many ways to approach it. Perhaps you could create a character without short-term memory and write a comedy like 50 First Dates, or dream up a crime thriller like Memento. Or, like Tennessee Williams with his “memory plays,” you could coin an entire dramatic subgenre, with characters whose stage life happen only in relation to a memory. A memory itself can have many versions and several authors, and this is the idea that drives Mark Walsh’s debut play.


Walsh’s background in screenwriting is both a blessing and a curse in Latitudes. His characters do a lot of describing as they recall their past, so he’s given himself the task of finding beautiful words to recreate a memory, which makes for some pleasing poetic imagery in spots. However, in so doing, he’s forced the directors and actors to use words instead of actions to create an event for the audience. In turn, this forces the audience to create a memory from scratch, simply from the words spoken.


This is a tough way to go about live theatre. It’s much easier for things to happen on stage, for the drama and conflict to unfold live in front of audiences. But here we have a play where the drama is supposed to be embedded in the unfolding of the memory itself, and the conflict comes from whose version of this memory reigns, and it’s not always successful in this.


Things are sometimes confusing and difficult to follow; names of people referred to in the script (but unseen on stage) are very similar and therefore easily confounded, and ambiguities never truly get resolved by the end. There are symbols whose meaning are hinted to, bloody eggs, cherries, maps, but deciphering these are like trying to find meaning in dreams.


And this is probably the point. The show’s creators don’t want to tie this all nicely up for us and send us out into the night feeling satisfied on firm ground. They may be happy for us to leave with a head full of questions like a bucket of inky water, with a half-formed memory of our own to contend with.


In any case, director Mikala Westall has assembled a strong trio of actors who lend the best of their unique features to this single character. Tessa Carmody is her at 15, full of spitfire and hope, Jo Morris is her at 35, tangled and troubled, and Claire Munday is her at 55, disconnected and blissfully ignorant. Patrick Howe certainly jogged my memory with his mini-foam party set that hides treasures in its sudsy cloud.


Perhaps this play, like a memory, will find its best telling over time.