Written by, composed by and performed singlehandedly by Claudia Molitor, Remember Me – here performed in east London’s Rivington Place as part of Spitalfields Music Winter Festival – is best described as a performance art installation. Like other performance art, much of the action takes place inside the mind of the audience as they watch it, rather than before our watching eyes. The idea of Molitor’s grandmother’s desk, the only place which was truly her grandmother’s sole preserve and is now Molitor’s inspiration for this show, captivated me from the start. The image is both haunting and moving, and will stay with me for a long time, like a microcosm of A Room of One’s Own. Though this show didn’t move me and won’t haunt me, its more experimental moments did charm, and showed genuine originality of approach.

Claudia Molitor, Remember Me: Spitalfields Music Winter Festival © Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Claudia Molitor, Remember Me: Spitalfields Music Winter Festival
© Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The desk itself is beautifully and cleverly designed by James Johnson. The music, performed and pre-recorded by Claudia Molitor, and relayed to us on the night electronically by Luke Collin, is a modern soundscape; we have glowing and grumbling sounds, sounds which pluck and tumble, wet sounds, mysterious slow piano chords, and moments of breathless silence. I particularly enjoyed the ground-level speakers booming out crackling sounds, deeply unsettling and unexpected; I felt my toes curling as I imagined something running towards me across the floor. In one delightful moment, we are given our “interval refreshments” which, as we chew them, make us part of the orchestra, as the sound of 20 people trying to eat quietly in a group adds an extra, amusing, embarrassed layer of percussion. A heap of tiny white balls falling through a hole, thanks to a strategically-placed microphone, sounds like rapturous applause. Everyday objects placed on the desk, like sellotape, become extraordinary instruments when they are picked up and “played” with. A sense of playfulness persists throughout, culminating in a secret whispered privately into the ear of each audience member – that’s your cue to leave, by the way.

Fascinating as some aspects of the performance are, I’m not convinced that Remember Me achieves any of its intended goals. It's supposed to be intimate, but the audience is held back from the desk at an emphatic distance; moreover, the desk is mounted at such an awkward angle that, if you weren’t in the front row (as I was), I’m not sure how much you’d really see. Above all, it drags. For a very short experience (the performance I saw was scarcely over 35 minutes), it moves astonishingly slowly. Tiny movements – the stroking of a desk, the scattering of petals on the floor – are left to linger in the mind, which should builds tension and focus; in practice, the extended sequences tend to frustrate. This may be particularly due to the fact that Molitor starts two great stories (the tragic Carthaginian queen Dido, and the ill-fated nymph Eurydice) – and then does nothing at all with them. It really is a pity these tales are merely evoked, not explored or developed, which is why, despite its gentle, elegant and interesting presentation, Remember Me is an unmemorable experience – though that desk remains hard to forget.