Tom has early onset dementia. He’s only 55. This is the jumping off point for Theatre Re’s The Nature of Forgetting, an exploration of memory made real through mime, original music and some beautifully tender but oh so fleeting moments of connection.
A clothes rail acts as Tom’s transportation device, with different items igniting different memories, from school blazers to wedding jackets. The school scenes are frequently charming, but often drag on a little too long, becoming repetitive. Another flashback of Tom riding his bike to school, his love Isabella on the front handles and friend Mike on the back, is a terribly sweet and nostalgic return to easier times, made all the more effective by live music from Alex Judd.
Judd’s score, played onstage, helps to add a mysticism to the piece, removing much need for words (which are used, but sparingly) but also serving to enhance a sense of magical realism. Being able to see the musicians intermingled amongst the actors helps to remind us of the artificiality of the actions – after all, these are just old flimsy and fading memories. And gradually, Tom is remembering less and less of them.
The four performers have a tremendous fluidity, slipping in and out of characters, moments, settings and costumes with ease and grace, always remaining around the outskirts of the stage until Tom’s memory calls them forward again. This works well as a visualisation of the mind, where people are ever present but not always centre stage, allowing multiple elements to exist at once. Director Guillaume Pige, who also plays Tom, holds the whole ensemble together in a beautifully meaningful physical performance.
The ending feels a little too convenient and verges on trite, but even that doesn’t take away from this effective and thoughtful foray into the bittersweet realm of memory.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
The Nature of Forgetting, Pleasance Courtyard, Aug 2-27 (not 14), 12pm