DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Nature of Forgetting – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Devised by: Theatre Re

Conceived and Directed by: Guillaume Pige

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

The West Yorkshire Playhouse’sEvery Third Minutefestival continues as the theatre presents work dealing with dementia and collaborating with those living affected by the condition. Theatre Re’s physical piece premiered at The Edinburgh International Arts Festival last year and is now on tour. It is an extraordinary, high-energy piece of work that whizzes you through the workings of a confused mind.

Opening in silence Sophie (Louise Wilcox) ties her father’s shoelace and tells him to wear the jacket hanging at the end of the clothes rail – his red tie in the pocket. But this task, too complex for Tom’s mind, parts the clothes rail and we fall into his jumbled past of memories, characters, relatives, friends and, ultimately, himself. The clothes on the rail then become the costumes for the cast of four onstage to use as they inhabit the faces from years gone by. This is a largely non-verbal, physical piece of theatre that is so tightly choreographed it is like watching the internal workings of an intricate clock: nothing is ever minutely out of place and each performer, whether actor or musician, never miss a turn of the cog. Props are exchanged, tables and chairs rearranged and bodies flung about the stage to create fleeting visual images that are gone in the next second. The craftsmanship of this piece is spellbinding.

As the founder and artistic of Theatre Re, conceiver, director and lead actor (playing Tom) one might say that Guillaume Pige is an auteur in every sense. That said, the work was created by the company as a whole and there is a genuine feel of the ensemble on the stage. There can be no doubting the boldness and commitment to the style of the piece by the actors. As Isabella, Tom’s childhood sweetheart, wife and mother to his child, Louise Wilcox is a performer you never wanted to stop watching: her diminutive frame expressing so much throughout. The action is live scored by composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Judd and fellow percussionist. The music is heavily laden by synthesiser and drum kit and there are some beautiful melodic sequences that convey the passages of time and the montage work being created, as well as moments of askew as memories shift, slide or get replayed ad nauseam.

This piece is kaleidoscopic. More than memories being filtered through a prism, it throws Tom’s past into a washing machine, spinning it around, occasionally seeing something you may recognise at the window. Chronology is unimportant (as so in memory) and moments are returned to like a game of Grandma’s footsteps: every time Tom looks back again something is not as it was before. The piece, in essence, is one large and jumbled montage of a life: school, mum, friends, playing, love, marriage, birth and tragedy. As theatre-makers, Theatre Re replicates and stage the unfathomable way a mind and memory functions in incredibly exciting and inventive ways. But the sacrifice is the narrative. Unless consulting the programme notes we only discover that Tom is dressing for his 55th birthday in the final moments and there are occasions whereby you become lost in the piece wondering what the narrative is. Intentional perhaps, but it reduces any emotional impact with character that could be achieved.

This is an expert piece of theatre from a company that feels incredibly fresh and bold in their approach to theatre-making.

Runs until 9 March 2018 | Image: Danilo Moroni

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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