It’s easy to feel confused watching scenes of classroom tomfoolery, a lovers’ bike ride, a wedding and a car crash rotate on repeat. But these moments are what early onset dementia sufferer Tom (Guillaume Pigé) is left with as he approaches his 55th birthday.
While these non-linear, often passion-fuelled scenes invite us into the realms of Tom’s memories, it’s the present day setting of his life with daughter Sophie (Louise Wilcox) that paint a picture of life living with Tom, and the reality is heartbreaking.
Sitting down to write this review I had what felt like a senile moment (despite being in my mid-twenties): I pulled the show flyer out of my bag but somehow managed to lose it between bag and desk. I searched the short two metre distance, absolutely baffled, before finding the flyer which had fallen down behind my bag. I’m fortunate not to suffer from any memory-related condition, but in this brief moment of confusion it seemed fitting to be writing a play about a character unable to retain new information.
In The Nature of Forgetting, Theatre Re use whirring sounds and distorted echoes to depict how instructions from Sophie become muddled in Tom’s memory as he struggles to cling on to the conversation held just moments ago. The battle between Tom and his memory is beautifully shown; in scenes reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman’s film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we witness Tom’s memories slipping away from him and his efforts to concentrate on the pivotal moments of his life he wants to recall. Theatre Re are masters of physical theatre, and much of The Nature of Forgetting is presented to us through movement and music, rather than dialogue. At one moment we see the participants and desks from the familiar classroom scene all tilt to one side while Tom battles to straighten them, externalising his internal fight to hold onto this memory. Pigé’s dance-like struggle with his coat, which flaws him as he attempts to dress in it, is stunning.
Watching The Nature of Forgetting is an emotional experience. The final scene, in which Sophie presents Tom with a birthday cake, will be sure to bring a lump to your throat. Even as I write this, certain visions – such as the car crash with its three alternative final moments – play on my mind. Theatre Re skillfully dramatise the torturous, precious power memory holds over us.
Visuals not owned