Scent Intertwines with Memory in this Experiential Play

by | May 21, 2024

Writer Georgia Ketels’ first play Recollection will have its June premiere at Melbourne’s fortyfivedownstairs theatre, directed by Cathy Hunt (7 Captiva Road, Chapel off Chapel, Love/ Chamberlain, Theatre Works), featuring Eve Morey, Molly Holohan, Mish Keating and Ravenna Bouckaert.

“I wanted to explore how a mother thinks her daughter smells – all the gum leaves, tea and oranges, none of the sweat, musk and smoke”, says Ketels, screenwriter-turned-playwright. “As much as you try to ignore the disagreeable elements of a person you love, as soon as you actually remove them, they’re not the person you loved anymore.”

Offering a sensory experience for audiences, this surprising new play captures the journey of a mother, attempting to piece her late teenage daughter’s life into a perfume. At key moments, custom-designed scents by Erin Adams of Smell Art will be incorporated into the theatrical space, bridging the abstract nature of grief with the tangible aroma of memories, as the smells of fruits, spices, leather, dirt and skin synthesise into the full picture of a person.

The play takes place in two timelines: in the recent past, Molly, a teenage girl, falls in love with Jenna, a new school friend. Molly’s mother, Olivia, is troubled by Jenna’s recklessness and tendency towards self-destruction. A relationship between the two girls blooms in secret.

In the present, Molly has died without warning, and Olivia is left to pick up the pieces of her life, seeking to remember Molly by her smell. Olivia must come to terms with who her daughter really was, and who she was going to become, to capture her volatile essence. She must take Jenna as part of Molly.

For Director Cathy Hunt, “This play offers a new approach to the queer coming of age story and generational struggle – our cast and creatives are all women or non-binary, and most of us identify as queer, so this story resonates strongly; it’s important to us. Molly and Jenna’s unexpected first love is authentic and real, funny and delicately genuine.”

“Recollection works in the spirit of historic mourning rituals like hair jewellery and memento mori, recalling past craft techniques to hold onto grief by literally wearing part of the lost loved person. These ritual observances, often led by women, influence the design of Recollection, which is futuristic in concept but nostalgic in form. We are delving into the rich linked processes of decay, regeneration, and the puzzle of loss.”

Would you preserve a loved one’s scent? Scent Artist Erin Adams notes the impact of olfactory art in Recollection: “In a world craving sensory connection, our sense of smell is a gateway to profound emotional experiences. The scent design for Recollection is a catalyst for empathy and introspection, amplifying the impact of human connections. Through scent, we’re reminded of our shared humanity, stirring memories that transcend language.”

Highly commended for the Australian Writers’ Guild’s Shane and Cathryn Brennan Prize and a finalist in Midsumma’s Queer Playwriting Award Showcase, Recollection brings the senses to life and understanding to grief through the impossible task of capturing human essence.

June 26 – July 7


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