Chris Turner @ Pleasance Courtyard

A stand-up meditation on memory

Review by Ben Venables | 26 Aug 2016
  • Chris Turner

Chris Turner's long-term memory is so unreliable he struggles to recall events from more than a couple of years ago. His first date with his girlfriend and their holiday in Dresden not only seem hazy to him at best, he has to investigate if they occurred at all. He uses a quote from Iris Murdoch's third novel, The Sandcastle, to help illustrate this; a sublime couple of sentences which conjure both beauty and then despair in two easy moves. It's a more prescient quote than it first appears too, given Murdoch's memory – like her butterfly flying out to sea – died several years before she did, after the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.

Turner's memory, on the other hand, seems simply on the frontiers of a normal one. For anyone who wants to call NHS 24 every time they misplace their house keys, his non-medicalised approach is as refreshing as it is troubling that he has to live like this. But, as he demonstrates, errant house keys probably wouldn't be such a problem. Other parts of his memory are much better. Indeed, when it comes to facts his powers of recall are at the other end of the spectrum and really quite astounding. He demonstrates this in two improvised raps at either end of the show and this ability allows him to think quickly and make creative connections – naturally these are thought processes useful for a comedian.

A curious thing about this show is that a tipsy weekend audience are all entranced more by the highfalutin stuff on memory, love and identity than they are by Turner's attempts to keep it light; for example, with several references to Pac-Man. This is possibly because he never overdoes it – it's an hour delivered with authenticity and he shares practical ways he's found round the problem that are quietly inspiring.

Even though his lack of memories forces Turner to question his experiences, we leave Observational Tragedy with a real sense of who he is.


Chris Turner: Observational Tragedy, Pleasance Courtyard (Beside), 3-29 Aug (not 26, 27 & 28), 9.45pm, £6-10