No-one sees their grandparents as young people – and so, we tend not to associate them with emotions of youth, desire, vanity, or jealousy. In our collective psyche, grandparents just occupy a space of their own, almost always representing comfort, a wealth of experience and conversations of their nostalgic past. Basement Tapes sets out to challenge that, and does it very well.
Stella Reid plays a young woman who is cleaning out her grandmother’s basement after her passing. She finds some predictable things – an old coat, some cigarettes, a tape recorder. But alongside that, she finds an old cassette tape. This leads to her grandmother’s recollection of the year 1971, and the events that occurred on a particular day.
As the tale unravels, we are aware of listening to someone’s most intimate memories and confessions; and even if they were meant to be discovered, we cannot help but feel that we are impinging on someone’s private mental space – a feeling that our protagonist shares with us. The production uses a mix of sound, light, and music to set the mood as the narrative shifts from light to dark. There are a couple of occasions where the audience is left alone in the dark, listening to the tape, and it is surprisingly creepy. How much do we really know a person? What are their darkest vices? And will her grandmother’s actions tarnish the young woman’s memories?
The ending builds to a crescendo of light and sound, and then leaves us with some of the questions answered and some still open to interpretation. This is a well-crafted piece of theatre, guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps and a sense of profound unease. This production, all the way from New Zealand, is fine addition to the thriller/horror line-up at the Fringe.