This is Memorial Device

Wee Red Bar

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Like Shakespeare and Greek tragedy, you know how plays about bands are likely to turn out. So it goes in Graham Eatough’s adaptation of David Keenan’s wild novel about an unknown 1980s beat combo straight outta Airdrie, who crash and burn like so many before them. As related by local fanzine writer and one-time band insider, Ross Raymond, Memorial Device were legend, and none more so than their mercurial psychik guru frontman Lucas Black.

Director Graham Eatough’s adaptation sets things up as a presentation by Raymond, who rewinds back to the heady days when bands formed, not with a career plan, but out of need. Embodying the fab four by way of artfully posed shop window mannequins, Raymond and others captured in filmed interviews present an impressionistic oral history of the band and the grim times they came out of by way of a series of possibly unreliable memories.

At the centre of this is Paul Higgins, who plays Raymond as a giddy wannabe turned John the Baptist figure and keeper of the Memorial Device flame. Higgins cuts a dynamic dash, full of nervous energy and near religious fervour punctuated by slabs of churning industrial noise by Stephen Pastel and Gavin Thomson. Anna Orton’s dive bar set includes a mock up of a Memorial Device poster for a gig supposed to have taken place in the Wee Red, itself a room full of musical legends.

Strip all this down in Eatough’s co-production between the Royal Lyceum Theatre and Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Memorial Device is a rites of passage for small town post-punk autodidacts. Beyond this, Keenan, Eatough and co have unleashed an imaginary mythology that is closer to the truth of a certain kind of collective cultural experience than what may or may not have actually happened. As the euphoric finale channels a yearning for transcendence, the play becomes a psychoactive hymn to the power of saying yes to experience, and whatever future it conjures up beyond.

Until August 29.