Are memories the thing that make us human? And if so, what happens when our memory fails us? This is the main theme of Theatre Re's touching The Nature of Forgetting, which uses music and physical theatre to explore the mind of Tom, a 55 year-old with early onset dementia.
It starts with the forgetting of a name, mistaking daughter for wife as she prepares him for his upcoming birthday party. Soon it escalates into a torrent of mixed up memories from infancy to schooldays to marriage.
Devised in collaboration with neuroscientist Professor Kate Jeffery, and informed by interviews with people affected by dementia, the show captures the frustration and fear that comes with losing your past. Guillaume Pigé is brilliant as Tom, switching from reminiscence to confusion in the blink of an eye. He's backed by a strong ensemble who use mime and fluid physical theatre to create, then steal away, his recollections.
Alex Judd's music, played from the back of the stage, adds to the atmosphere. That the narrative at times feels fragmented only adds to the idea of Tom's frustration and a sense of the helplessness of his ailing mind.
The message is rammed home, with memories twisting and turning, fading from one to another, which feels laboured in one or two places. Yet as the candles on the cake are blown out, you get the sense that while his memories may be fading, Tom is still very much human after all.