In my opinion, you haven’t really “done” the Fringe until you’ve tried something a little bit weird. This show is one of those things. Standing in a basement of a pub on Western Road, you’ll be transported to the eponymous Museum Of The Recently Named – shepherded around the exhibits by a pleasant but somehow-threatening tour guide, and surrounded by officious notices suggestive of a totalitarian state.
The Museum, it soon emerges, exists in a strange and dystopian future: one where identity is suppressed, and only selected objects are given their own names. We’ve each made an arduous journey to experience this once-in-a-lifetime tour, and our continued presence – indeed, our continued existence – is dependent on maintaining our good standing within an oppressive, controlling society.
The Museum’s new exhibits are antiques by the time of the story, but familiar objects in our own time. We gape aghast at a telephone, a glass of water, and (terrifyingly, according to our tour guide) a toaster. Each is exhibited in turn within the small basement space, and listening through headphones, we receive some comically incorrect education about the object’s original purpose. At first this seems like an entertaining pastiche of the guesses made by archaeologists, but later it comes to feel more sinister: misinformation deliberately spread to keep a population under control.
Something else happens too, something it would be wrong of me to spoil. I’ll simply say that there’s a good reason why the commentary is delivered through headphones. That gimmick does, however, somewhat diminish the human tour guide who’s present in the room; her role briefly flared to life when an audience member dared touch something the script said he wasn’t allowed to, and a little more colour of that kind would have made the experience more tense and engaging.
As for what the whole thing is meant to signify… well, that remains a little obscure. For me, it was something to do with the unreliability of memory, and how important it is to question what you believe you know. But there are a few things here to think about, and you might latch onto something completely different… or alternatively, leave feeling you’ve learned nothing at all.
So The Museum Of The Recently Named isn’t life-changing or truly ground-breaking, but it’s a pleasingly quirky production, offering some genuine food for thought. And a show like that deserves a place in anyone’s Fringe.