Sunday, 21 May 2017

Forgetting Dramaturgy: Guillaume Pigé @ Edfringe 2017

The Nature of Forgetting
Pleasance Courtyard (Forth), 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ Thursday 3rd – Sunday 27th August 2017 (not 14th), 12:00

Following a sell-out run at the 2017 London International Mime Festival, Theatre Re’s The Nature of Forgetting is a powerful, explosive and joyous piece about what is left when memory and recollection are gone. It is part of British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017.

Tom has just turned 55. As he dresses for his birthday party, tangled threads of disappearing memories spark him into life, unravelling as a tale of friendship, love and guilt. This ambitious project with actors, mimes and musicians has been created in collaboration with UCL Neuroscience Professor Kate Jeffery and inspired by interviews and workshops with organisations such as the Alzheimer's Society. 

While the medium of performance may be an unusual resource for the transmission of science, it shines a light on issues around memory that offers a new perspective.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The Nature of Forgetting started with a question:
what is eternal? Or more specifically what is left when memory is gone? To find answers we dived into the world of memories and forgetting. 

We collaborated with UCL Neuroscience Professor Kate Jeffery to explore what it means to forget and what actually happens in the brain when we forget. We also interviewed older members of the community as well as people living with dementia and their carers to create links between the science and the real human experience.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

I think performance is a good trigger for fascinating discussions because it helps us to develop our empathy. It helps us to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and see the world through his or her eyes.

With The Nature of Forgetting, we don't pretend that we portray on stage what it is like to be living with early onset dementia, but we give a glimpse of what it can be like. We provide a change of perspective and that change can be enlightening and lead to the public discussion of ideas such as why providing extensive care for people living with dementia, what sort of care is needed and also how to train people to be more dementia friendly. 

It is as if the role of the artist was to reveal or unveil inner truths about the human condition and share the result of his or her exploration with an audience. Performance seems to be a rehearsal for life.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I first trained as an actor and then as a director and then I fell in love with Mime. To me, Mime is about making the portrait of something (an thought, an idea, an emotion...etc) with something else (a body, an object, the voice...etc). It is about creating metaphors on stage to communicate, and I find it to be the most beautiful and powerful thing in the world because it triggers the audience's imagination.

With The Nature of Forgetting, our main question was: what is left when memory is gone? We did not find the answer. We could not find the answer. So we made a show about it, in other word we created a metaphor to give a flavour of the answer. And that flavour turned out to be more real and tangible than any answers.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

As a company we work very collaboratively, we take time and we constantly open the doors of our rehearsal room to share/test our work.

We engaged with a lot of people throughout the development process. A lot of the work happened in rehearsal, but many discoveries were also made while researching for the project, interviewing experts in the field of memory and public health, engaging with people living with dementia and their carer.

When in the rehearsal room, we started by moving and improvising. A few objects became very rapidly central to the piece like the wooden school desks, for instance. Most of our initial little scenes did not make much sense and were completely unrelated. It is only little by little, through constant and regular adjustments and regular dramaturgy sessions, where we questioned every choices, that very slowly a piece appeared. It seems very similar to sculpting in that sense. It was a process of constant refinement. And it still is.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes and no.

Yes, because we sweat a lot. It is very physical and visual and I think people will relate to the work in a deep and intuitive way. The whole piece is also being supported by a live musical score specially composed by Alex Judd.

No, because we have never had so many things and performers on stage. There is a lot of stuff, so it is not as minimal as our previous productions, where only a couple of objects were used to their maximal potential. It is also our most narratively driven piece to date.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I would like the audience to come out of the theatre with both a smile on their face and a tear in their eye, having experienced the fragility of life.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I tried to give a real portrait of what it means to forget. By real, I don't mean natural or naturalistic but true. It comes back to the idea of creating metaphors on stage and how these metaphors can help  us get closer to the unspeakable truth that we are trying to communicate to the audience.

Director Guillaume Pigé comments, The Nature of Forgetting is not about dementia. It is about the fragility of life and that eternal ‘something’ we all share that is left when memory is gone. Our collaboration with Professor Kate Jeffery and our interviews with people living with dementia and their carers have resulted in a life-affirming journey into a weakening mind, where broken does not have to mean defeated.

The development process for The Nature of Forgetting lasted for 16 months, funded by Arts Council England. The piece is co-commissioned by the London International Mime Festival, The Point and South Hill Park.

Established in 2009, Theatre Re is a London-based international ensemble creating thought- provoking, tangible and poignant work. Its shows examine fragile human conditions, in a compelling, physical style embracing mime, theatre and live music.

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