Albert Names Edward is one of Louis Nowra’s first plays. He wrote it in “a few magical days” and recalls it coming to him “quickly, spontaneously”. It’s a dark and sometimes funny one-act play for two actors.
A man has been badly beaten and has no memory when Albert, a frequently homeless man now living in a dingy room, finds him. Instead of taking the man to a hospital or getting him help, Albert takes him to his room and sets about ‘educating’ him. He names him Edward and trains him to be frightened of the world outside. When Edward has a flash of memory, Albert takes it and reconfigures it to make it seem his own.
EDWARD: (Rushing, excited) Anna Wollheim … Anna Wollheim … did you hear that?
ALBERT: It’s a girl’s name.
EDWARD: I know … (Excited) I know … perhaps it’s a memory … perhaps a memory of someone I knew before I forgot everything. Maybe it will all soon … kind of tumble out … all my memories.
ALBERT: I wouldn’t get too excited if I was you. I’m sorry, but you must have remembered me talking about her. Anna Wollheim is a girl I once told you about.
EDWARD: I don’t remember.
ALBERT: I think you were asleep … no … you were … that’s it … after I found you and cleaned up your head I told you a story to see if you were still awake … about Anna Wollheim … you must have forgotten I told you …
EDWARD: (disappointed) It’s really one of your memories?
Albert Names Edward was written as a stage play but has also been produced as a radio play. All the action takes place in Albert’s dreary room, which he slowly blocks off from the outside world as he turns Edward into his brother who died in the war and sets about giving him his own memories. Except the memories he gives him aren’t from the life he’s lived, they’re actually taken from the Mickey Spillane books and movies he loves.
ALBERT: If I die, what will happen? You’ll be left alone without any memories if you don’t remember mine. (Pause) If you remember my memories, then I won’t die. You’ll be me.
This is a play about loss of identity, the rewriting of history and loneliness. I found it moving and appalling in equal measure.
Publisher: Currency Press (published with Inner Voices)