The Nature of Forgetting

4 words: Transfixing, Virtuosic, Poetic, (but) heavy-handed

What happened to physical theatre, you ask? TheatreRe are wiping the floor with it, in this incredibly executed evocation of early-onset dementia. Tom, played by the mesmerising Guillaume Pigé, is turing 55.  As his daughter gently reminds him that she’s put his tie in his coat pocket, he is besieged by memories in progressive fragments. The hour that unfolds is an onslaught of imagery, short scenes and moments from his life (school days, first loves, marriage, a horrific car crash), sometimes sequential, sometimes disrupted.  It is a past that he is desperate to cling to, while also in the moments of respite from it. The cast of four, supported by two musicians, are symphonic in their ensemble movement. The level of physical precision and detail, with variations in rhythm, tempo, levels, quickens the pulse. The audience is still, attentive, rapt… Or maybe they’re just trying really hard to tune out the overpowering and omnipresent live soundtrack. This is a soundtrack that wants you to feel what it wants you to feel, and it really is quite emphatic about what it wants you to feel. (“Can these synth strings underscoring the innocence of childhood possibly get any more sentimental?” you may ask. Oh yes they can). The other shortcoming of this otherwise flawless production lies in its dramaturgy. After 20 minutes or so, we have the scope of the story, and the show doesn’t really move on from there, progressing instead (as in memory) as a series of re-iterations. This makes sense scientifically and medically, less so dramatically. The emotional stakes of dementia, at least in this reviewer’s experience, lie in the relationship between the sufferer and his/her loved ones, not necessarily in the mind of the patient him/herself. Indeed, the erosion of the will itself is one of dementia’s markers. So without conflict and clear stakes, the show moves instead through its series of beautifully executed movements, memories, silent scenes and images. Poetic, transfixing, but a tad heavy-handed. Nonetheless, this company is one to watch and its creator, Guillaume Pigé is set for stardom.

– N. Barthes

August 24-27, 12:00 @ Pleasance Courtyard

Tickets here