The Nature Of Forgetting is a true ensemble piece, each character contributing to the overall picture of joy, laughter and loss. Daniel Perks takes a trip down memory lane with Theatre Re.

Alex Judd’s composition begins with a single, drawn-out harmonic on the violin. It’s live and visceral, a strand of memory that leaves Tom (Guillaume Pigé) looking back into his past, remembering childhood laughs, larks and loves with nostalgia. In The Nature Of Forgetting, the composition becomes synonymous with recollection, a series of beautifully simplistic passages that signify youthful joy and glee. Like a dream, these fragments slip and slide away, just as the accompaniment utilises portamento or electronic pitch bends to fall off-key and into the blackness. Who needs words to convey emotion when the soundscape is this powerful?

The Nature Of Forgetting Shoreditch Town Hall

Alex Judd (image courtesy of Danilo Moroni)

Theatre Re’s production centres around father Tom (Pigé), but is as much about his family, friends and influences as it is about himself. We see him making false connections from the outset, the early onset dementia naturally causing him to mistake his daughter Sophie for departed wife Isabella (both Louise Wilcox). As we travel back through broken pieces of his past, we meet schoolfriend Mike (Matthew Austin), his mother (Eygló Belafonte) and a whole host of figures that have shaped his existence. The journey beautifully non-linear, an inexplicable series of dreamlike states that gracefully ebb and flow from a raised platform on stage – the parameters of Tom’s consciousness. Because when the structure of your mind starts to crinkle and crack, you cannot rationalise how one connection travels into another. You start to become frustrated and angry, unable to control or hang on to the happiness. Tom’s disease manifests an emotional change in him, a beautiful physicality and pain that creeps into the performance with increasing frequency. It’s met with a tainted, chromatic backing track, trills and atonal chords that break apart the beauty of the legato melody.

The Nature Of Forgetting Shoreditch Town Hall

Guillaume Pigé (image courtesy of Danilo Moroni)

But while the music acts to reinforce a slowly crumbling mental state, it’s not the trigger for such memories. For this individual, that is something far more tactile, a set of clothes that Tom mistakenly puts on when trying to find the right jacket for his birthday celebrations. A school blazer, a dirty old tie, his mother’s scarf and an argyle jumper all act as springboards into the past, a combination of the visual, the touch and perhaps even the smell. They are evocative of knock-a-door-run with friends, of three kids riding along precariously balanced on the one bike – The Nature Of Forgetting oozes with such powerful memories of a simplistic upbringing, complete with friends and love and life in all its magnificent glory.

The Nature of Forgetting Shoreditch Town Hall

Louise Wilcox, Guillaume Pigé & Matthew Austin (image courtesy of Danilo Moroni)

The harder Tom reaches to remember, the quicker it all falls apart – the disease is ever-present to snatch away these moments just when they reach their peak. Frustrated, continued attempts are met with breathless exhaustion as he reaches his mental limits, none more so than on his wedding day. Here, the action freezes at all the climactic points – the I Do’s, the speeches, the dancing. Even Tom’s most determined, concerted efforts aren’t enough to allow him to relive these pivotal events.

The Nature Of Forgetting is a true ensemble piece, each character contributing to the overall picture of joy, laughter and loss. Its premise is both exquisitely simple and inherently complex, a concept that is reflected in both the narrative and the execution. Each actor’s portrayal projects outwards and yet exhibits a series of microscopic details, all of which add to the canvas of the production. Movements in the wings are intentionally subtle and aspects of memory delicately leak into each other. It’s a mature, masterful effort from every cast member to convey the deconstruction of a person’s identity from the inside.

The Nature of Forgetting Shoreditch Town Hall

Guillaume Pigé, Louise Wilcox & Eygló Belafonte (image courtesy of Danilo Moroni)

We end with the present, a birthday cake that in one fell swoop turns The Nature Of Forgetting on its head. Because for those that don’t read the programme beforehand, there is no indication that Tom’s decline is occurring at just 55 years old. We spend the show thinking of him as far older, in his twilight years. Suddenly, this tiny detail elevates our connection to the piece, our sympathy for the character. Because 55 is still a life half-lived, a life half-forgotten. That’s the power of The Nature Of Forgetting – it’s a gradual, unstoppable force that affects from within.

 

 

★★★★☆

The Nature Of Forgetting runs at Shoreditch Town Hall until 28 April 2018, as part of a UK tour. For further information, please visit the company website.