Following a highly successful run at Edinburgh Fringe 2017, Theatre Re’s The Nature of Forgetting now launches an exciting international tour. It is a powerful, explosive and joyous piece about what is left when memory and recollection are gone.
We spoke to creative team Alex Judd (original music) and Katherine Graham (lighting design) to find out more.
What can you tell us about The Nature of Forgetting?
Katherine: The Nature of Forgetting turns a performance lens on the idea of forgetting; what happens when we forget? And what is left when memory is gone? In making the show we collaborated with a neuroscientist, Prof. Kate Jeffery, who was able to share loads of fascinating insights into the brain and how memory works.
We also spoke with and interviewed people living with memory loss in various forms for a more personal take on our research. Then, we turned all that information into theatrical gestures, using music, movement, lighting, and story to express these questions of forgetting. The show itself follows the story of Tom, a man living with early onset dementia, and takes us into his mind as his memories start to slip away.
Tell us about the physical side of the performance?
Katherine: Well, the style of Theatre Re’s work is rooted in traditions of corporeal mime, so that’s the background. The physical performances (and I can say this because I’m not onstage!) are incredibly skilled and precise. So it’s exciting to watch; the performers are all bursting with energy. Beyond that we try to use the physical side of the performance as a way of creating theatrical metaphors, using the body and space to tell a deeper story than the one on the surface of each scene.
What do you think the lack of dialogue adds to the production?
Alex: I would say that it encourages the audience to use their imaginations to a greater extent in order to find a deeper meaning within the piece, and perhaps a resonance with their own experiences. I personally find it interesting how removing any substantial lines of dialogue from a scene can make the meaning less explicit and create more space for the imagination. A lack of dialogue also creates more space for sound, so there is a lot of music in the piece!
The music in Nature of Forgetting is really beautiful, what inspired it?
Alex: Thank you! The music was not so much inspired by one particular composer or style during the creative process. The main influences for me materialised from the R&D process, such as the interviews based on the Desert Island Disks format and the research into the effect music has on those experiencing memory loss. There are however a few composers who resonate with me more than others: I particularly look up to minimalists John Adams and Philip Glass, and the jazz infused neo-classical music of Ravel and Stravinsky.
It was a big success in Edinburgh, have you made any changes since?
Katherine: Well, yes and no! The structure of the show is very precise, so the basic shape of it will be recognisable to anyone who saw it in Edinburgh. But, in performance the show changes all the time! We are constantly reinventing the piece, trying new things, new music, keeping the moments fresh. So there’s a lot of new stuff in there now and it feels like it’s moved on a lot since August. The show also looks really different on a bigger stage so that changes it too.
What are you most looking forward to about taking it out on tour?
Alex: Sharing our work with those who are most affected by the subject matter, which I would say is the most rewarding aspect of performing the show. I also really enjoy observing the range of different audiences reactions to the show. In South America audiences were very expressive to us in their emotions post-show, which was amazing to experience.
In the UK, audiences tend to be slightly more reserved and less willing to engage in conversation with us post-show; not to say that they appreciate the experience any less! Sharing this piece with different people all around the world is a huge privilege, and one that I doubt I will ever fully comprehend.
The Nature of Forgetting is at Shoreditch Townhall 24th – 28th April 2018 and then touring until 15th June.