Edinburgh Fringe 2017
‘Part of British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017 and following a sell-out run at the 2017 London International Mime Festival, Theatre Re presents a powerful, explosive and joyous piece about what is left when memory is gone. Tom is 55, today. As he dresses for his party, tangled threads of disappearing memories spark him into life, unravelling as a tale of friendship, love and guilt. Theatre Re is a London-based international ensemble creating thought-provoking, tangible and poignant work. Its shows examine fragile human conditions in a compelling, physical style embracing mime, theatre and live music. (EdFringe website.)’
This show is a theatrical keepsake. Theatre Re are masters of storytelling, drawing the audience ceaselessly closer with every slight and sweeping movement. An awesome ensemble of four, plus two musicians capturing and expressing their every intention, tension and turn, craft this mesmerizingly well-wrought devised piece with poise and poignancy. The cast use all of themselves to re-enact Tom’s past, as he tries to trace the fault lines in his head, taut with grief, joy, love and regret. Sparse and deliberate text comes into play only when essential: Tom’s tale is told mostly with music and movement. But The Nature of Forgetting is so accessible – clear without being clunky, explanatory without pretence. Nothing but clean lines and heartstrings.
The Nature of Forgetting cannot be commended highly enough for its elegant shape. Beautifully bookended by naturalistic family interactions, the turbulence of bodies creating the events in between has a resultant dreamlike ephemerality. A demonstrative reminder of the fragility of human identity, for which an understanding of the present entirely depends on being able to grasp one’s past, the production was breathtakingly delicate through being utterly robust and watertight. All involved are responsible for this triumphant effect, but the intensity of Guillaume Pigé’s performance as Tom was tirelessly transfixing. He cycled one particular movement to signify frustration at not being able to recall a memory, which provided the audience with a visual touchstone, and lifted you right up and inside his inner turmoil. The physical theatre was almost always well-judged, diverse and diverting. From sequences expressing the humdrum, but nonetheless invigorated, every day of the childhood classroom to the miraculous feeling of young love, the cast worked attentively to create a series of impressions, like moving pictures on life’s great tapestry.
Occasionally, instances of physical repetition were not absolutely necessary, and paralysed the action somewhat. Tom’s childhood was iterated a lot, and though this was not detractive or dull, it meant that his later life did not take up sufficient space in the pace of the show. One particular repeated sequence, however, was still more heart-breaking with each new embodiment. Before you could catch your breath, this certain intrusive memory would spontaneously hurtle Tom back or forwards in time. Portraying the mind-altering effect of trauma, Tom’s memories of his wedding, the birth of his daughter and, retrospectively, his childhood innocence, are discoloured by this life-shaping event. Every action had ease and integrity; haste, not speed; and subtle grandeur. Set was manipulated imaginatively to transport the audience to different times and places. Clothes had memories woven into their fabric, and costumes were incorporated into the choreography, showing the importance of touch for recollection. Admirably considered and immaculately executed, The Nature of Forgetting externalised the internal, exploding one mind into the playing space.
The highest praise for this production must go to the music, the integral element which made The Nature of Forgetting realise all its conceptual potential. Alex Judd’s score was electric. Its invigorating continual force channels the show’s ebb and flow with perfect grace. At times, it was muffled, moulded to Tom’s memories, foggy as the inside of his head. Murmurous white noise with the undercurrent of a recapitulated tune, jolting like a faltering record, warped like a writhing limb. The cast spoke live into mics, playing out voices inside Tom’s head, which would jump from wall to wall of the auditorium. The effect was immersion; the effect was empathy. Certain sounds bounced Tom back to moments in his past, which the cast relived in the time it took for one to happen and fade fast into an echo. Played live by two impassioned musicians, the leaping, resonating soundscapes unwaveringly sustained my attention.
The onstage company felt more several than four, so populated did they make the space. Even when offstage, their energy was total. Through profound attention to detail, Theatre Re have made a production which truly is unforgettable, apt for a medium which is never set in stone. Remember to go and see it.