Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

The Nature of Forgetting

Guillaume Pigé and Theatre Re
Theatre Re
The Quays Theatre, The Lowry, Salford
12 June 2018 to 13 June 2018


Dementia is a terrifying affliction stripping away not just memory but also the character traits that form a personality. In The Nature of Forgetting dementia is portrayed as not so much frightening as simply wrong - indecent in the way it reduces people to shadows of their true selves. The point is made beautifully in the opening scene as middle-aged Tom (director Guillaume Pigé who conceived the play in collaboration with members of Theatre Re) sits tensely as his daughter Sophie (Louise Wilcox) ties his shoelaces. Tom’s body language makes clear he knows this is not the way things should be but that he is powerless to put matters right. As Tom attempts to make sense of his situation his mind drifts back to his youth but he finds that those memories also are becoming distorted.

The Nature of Forgetting is told with minimal dialogue; in this play words add to the confusion suffered by Tom becoming part of a cacophonous background.  Alex Judd’s score is played live throughout – the tick-tock rhythm of the drum and the drone of the violin drawing attention to the passing of time and suggesting the beating of a heart. It is hardly relaxing but certainly gets under your skin and adds tremendously to the suspense.

The story is told through stylised movement rather than by choreographed dance. There is an evocative sense of memory as situations with which audience members are familiar – the boredom of school, pranks and efforts to steal a kiss - are instantly recognisable. The storytelling is stripped down to basics - the movements are clear and simple very much like children at play. The pain caused by Tom confusing his daughter with his wife is understated and completely convincing.

Director Pigé sets a warm mood with some lovely scenes – especially the bicycle rid - which makes the encroaching horror of Tom’s situation all the more powerful as desks twist and turn and the music becomes discordant. This change of mood – from playful to disturbing – is perhaps the most effective part of the play, illustrating how things that we suppose are permanent can turn out to be fragile after all. There is a bittersweet tone with a hint that forgetfulness can be a blessing if it conceals a traumatic event.

The cast are clearly committed and throw themselves into the play to the extent that some scenes go on after they have reached the point of a natural conclusion. One of the more striking features of the play is that, despite the frustration experienced by Tom, there is an underlying sense of optimism – of people struggling against the inevitable and determined to persevere.  The final moments are perfectly judged and bring the play to a very moving and even hopeful conclusion.

Reviewer: David Cunningham