The Nature of Forgetting, Pleasance, Review

Submitted by Jon Cross on Wed, 9 Aug '17 3.28pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Theatre Re
Guillaume Pige (concept and direction), Alex Judd (composer), Malik Ibheis (costume and prop designer)
Guillaume Pige (Tom), Louise Wilcox (Isabella/Sophie), Eyglo Belafonte (Emma/Mrs Denis), Matthew Austin (Mike)
Running time

Dad sits alone next to a long line of hanging garments. His daughter enters and reminds him that they will soon have visitors; he needs to put on a jacket and tie. Tom is prematurely old; he has early onset dementia. What was it he was supposed to do? A jacket? Which one? Is it this one….? And so begins Tom’s journey back into his own past.

The narrative flow is, by the very nature of the piece, fragmented and patchy, switching between the intense and the vague, turning back upon itself to repeat events and emotions before jumping forward or further back.

Time and again we are brought back to the classroom with Tom as schoolboy or schoolmaster. The oldest memories are perhaps the last to leave.

There are scenes of spellbinding dramatic magic – a bicycle ride of sheer, unadulterated joy or a family group looking into a long-forgotten shop window, their faces lit up in silent rapture. In perhaps the most heart-rending moment, Tom fights to hold on to the memory of a celebration by rushing around the table pulling the characters back into place as they freeze, fade and start to dip and slip away. Sometimes we struggle, like Tom himself, to work out what he is trying to remember, even when he goes back to it again and again.

Guillaume Pege as Tom delivers a masterful central performance of great subtlety. At one moment, he can look old, vacant and utterly bewildered, at another he is mummy’s little boy or a gauche young man.

The three other members of a strong cast play the roles of his mother, his wife, his daughter, and his best friend.

Very few words are spoken or needed. This is an exceptionally fine piece of high-energy physical theatre, a genre well-suited to the subject matter.

Alex Judd's original music on keyboard, violin and percussion unobtrusively keeps pace with Tom on his emotional journey.

At the end of the drama, the people that matter to him arrive with a birthday cake. He is in the moment and he remembers clearly who they are, even if this too will leave him soon.

Until 27 August (not 14), 12 noon