Review: THE NATURE OF FORGETTING, Shoreditch Town Hall

A touching tale of dismembered memories.

By: Jan. 24, 2023
Review: THE NATURE OF FORGETTING, Shoreditch Town Hall
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Review: THE NATURE OF FORGETTING, Shoreditch Town Hall Part of this year's London International Mime Festival, The Nature of Forgetting from Theatre Re dynamically tackles the topic of memory and what we do - and don't - recall through the eyes of Tom, a man with early onset dementia.

There's only a small acting cast of four (three of whom play multiple roles) plus two musicians, but this feels like a much bigger production. Physical theatre is the name of the game here and the central character's condition is explored in a way that is not shamelessly seeking pity but nevertheless engenders it through being very relatable: we all forget and, moreover, we have no idea to track what we have forgotten so when we do get a random remembrance, it can be both intriguing and saddening - how many joyful moments have we lost to the mists of time?

We first meet Tom (Guillaume Pigé) as he is being dressed by his daughter Sophie (Louise Wilcox) ahead of a visit from his mother and his friend Mike. In one of the show's few verbal exchanges, the father turns to his child, and thanks her using his wife's name. She turns away, griefstruck, as he drifts away from the present into the more redolent areas of his past.

Directed by Pigé, we are taken down the rabbit hole of Tom's mind to re-live his key memories. Calum Littley and Eygló Belafonte round out a cast that play out the laughs and japes of his school days, a frenetic bicycle ride with friends, Tom's first kiss, the wooing and marrying of Isabella (also Wilcox) and then a fateful argument with her while driving that leads to apparently tragic consequences. It is the latter that keeps butting into his thoughts and tail-ends whatever happy event his mind throws up.

The aural aspects of this show are every bit as important as the physical elements. Composer Alex Judd and colleague Nathan Gregory roll out a soundscape that complements and pumps up the flashbacks to incredibly emotional heights. From the jaunty melodies that accompany young Tom's childhood memories to the dissonant tones as we see him desperately clinging onto memories that are falling apart at the seams, the music makes this poor man's inner torment all that more heartbreaking. It brings to mind the words of Edgar Allan Poe's poem A Dream Within A Dream published a few months before his death:

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand -

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep - while I weep!

O God! Can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

There are few words in this production with the cast expressing much of what is going through Tom's head through their acrobatic movement. The skillful writing, the punchy soundtrack and the impressive acting mean that, while it may be a largely mute performance, it is never muted.

The Nature of Forgetting is on tour around the UK until 6 June.

Photo Credit: Danilo Moroni


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