The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] In ‘Nature of Forgetting,’ movements speak louder than words

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Jan. 21, 2024 - 17:54

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A scene from “The Nature of Forgetting” (The Best Plays Inc.) A scene from “The Nature of Forgetting” (The Best Plays Inc.)

In the vibrant season of youth, Tom dashes eagerly to catch up with his school crush, who rides ahead on her bicycle. Next moment, he finds himself in the lead, with her at his back, their heartbeats echoing the fluttering memories.

Through an ordinary moment, the audience gets a glimpse of Tom’s most cherished memories. But the recollections are gradually slipping away as he grapples with dementia. Maybe it’s the fleeting nature of the memories that renders the beauty, or its poignant tenderness.

The physical theater piece, “The Nature of Forgetting,” begins on the 55th birthday of Tom who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

A scene from “The Nature of Forgetting” (The Best Plays Inc.) A scene from “The Nature of Forgetting” (The Best Plays Inc.)

“Dad, your navy jacket is at the right end of the wardrobe, and the red tie is in the pocket,” his daughter repeats slowly, yet the man struggles to comprehend the simple words.

When left alone, getting dressed, as he searches through the rack, a slew of fragmented memories unravels at his touch -- as if tangled threads of memories are finding their place in his head.

From childhood days when his mother combed his hair, to the bicycle ride to school, playful moments in the classroom, the theater where he and his crush had their first date and the wedding -- some of his most joyous and painful memories connect and break, then crumble and resurface. Like a film, they fast-forward, rewind, replay or slow down in different tempos.

A scene from “The Nature of Forgetting” (The Best Plays Inc.) A scene from “The Nature of Forgetting” (The Best Plays Inc.)

The Korean production of “The Nature of Forgetting” by The Best Plays Inc. in collaboration with the original UK creative team, Theater Re, highlights how actions can speak so much louder than words.

The British play, which premiered in London in 2017, had a sold-out run in Korea in 2019 and the licensed production in April 2022 was also a sell-out.

The non-verbal show, with minimal dialogue, relies on the actors’ detailed and carefully choreographed body language, mime and indistinct murmurs.

Four actors seamlessly move across the stage, change costumes and move wooden desks, creating an ever-evolving stage set. The actors’ movements harmonize dynamically with the emotionally charged music performed by the two-member band, who skillfully change between the piano, violin, percussion and loop station. Occasionally they appear as supporting characters.

Guillaume Pige (The Best Plays Inc.) Guillaume Pige (The Best Plays Inc.)

“The making of ‘The Nature of Forgetting’ started with a question: ‘What is left when memory is gone?’” said Theater Re artistic director Guillaume Pige.

“I did not find the answer and I am still looking. … I created a metaphor to give a flavor of the answer. And that flavor turned out to be more real and tangible than any answers.”

Pige said if there is one takeaway from the play, it’s “to remind ourselves to be present, in the moment, and realize life as we live it.”

“To me, mime is about creating metaphors on stage to communicate. I find it to be the most beautiful and powerful thing because it triggers the audience’s imagination,” Pige said. “I would like the audience to come out of the theater with both a smile on their face and a tear in their eye, having experienced the fragility of life.”

“The Nature of Forgetting” runs at the Daehakro Art One Theater in Jongno until Jan. 28.