“John Totterdill is dead, and his mother too, so the only person who remembers this incident is me, and yet the embarrassment of it lives on…the depths of my triviality are discovered to me now fifty years later and there is no one left from whom to ask forgiveness.” – Alan Bennett
I am reviewing two separate shows here, and only one other audience (May 15) will see these two pieces on the same bill, in the same order as I saw them. And yet, as I watched My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey and then Performing Therapy, and pondered the overall theme and structure of WAM Theatre’s O Solo Mama Mia Festival – a festival of solo works written and performed by women – this quotation from an autobiographical essay by Alan Bennett kept coming to mind.
Humankind has always had a need to tell stories, but in Western culture the need to tell personal stories has only emerged since the Renaissance. Today it is easier than ever to speak, write, sing, and dance what is in our hearts, and to share it rapidly with other people. The din is unbelievable, and as a great and cheerful contributor to it myself, I have always subscribed to the theory that storytelling is good and cathartic and unifying and…then I read what Bennett wrote and was jolted with the realization that the constant telling and retelling of stories is as much a way of keeping wounds open as helping them heal. Even after there is no left alive who has experienced an event, it still lives.