Invisible Ink’s The Terrible Things I’ve Done is a scrapbook of memories: a re-enactment of reminiscences of embarrassing, shaming or disturbing experiences collected by writer Alan Harris. It asks the question: what do we do with them? Do they mark us for life? Do we carry them with us, leave them behind, or simply immerse ourselves in gluttonous excess in order to forget all about them?
A piece focused on the awful things that people have done – usually to other people – could easily become one of the most depressing evenings you’ve ever had, a litany of horror and regret (or lack of it). But The Terrible Things I’ve Done is actually very funny. The stories are short, light sketches staged on a stripped-down, multi-functional set by three performers. They’re interleaved between a running narrative of an affair which reaches its unexpected climax at the end of the show, when the narrator (Hannah McPake) smashes the fourth wall and asks the silent audience what she should do with the memories she has.
It takes skill to keep an audience constantly engaged with a such a patchwork of stories, but the well-paced script with its subtly recurring theme of food and eating and the versatile actors (McPake, Francois Pandolfo and Lynn Hunter) provide sufficient variation and depth to ensure that the mind never wanders.
The writer’s careful curation and arrangement of the stories – from the man who got too competitive in a game of Musical Chairs to the woman who chopped her brother’s finger off – ensures a well-struck balance between light and dark. There’s a definite shift across the evening towards bleaker and more powerful material, but tragedy is usually far more powerful when it follows hard on the heels of genuine laughter. This show offers both.
We’ve all done things we regret, and we’ve all dealt with them in different ways. It may be questionable whether confession is good for the soul – there’s a Confession Booth in the foyer for audience members who feel the need to unload – but The Terrible Things I’ve Done shows that it can definitely provide the basis for an evening of riveting theatre.
The Terrible Things I’ve Done was at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol from Thursday, September 29 to Saturday, October 1. For more info, visit thewardrobetheatre.com/livetheatre/terrible-things-ive-done