Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview Theatre Interview

Alex Judd and Katherine Graham: The Nature Of Forgetting

By | Published on Thursday 19 April 2018

We’ve been fans of Theatre Re for some time now, having first been exposed to their high quality offerings up at the Edinburgh Fringe, and their production ‘The Nature Of Forgetting’, which comes to Shoreditch Town Hall this week, is one which generated an awed response from our reviewer last summer.

It’s clear that the shows are very much a team effort, with creatives from all disciplines involved in their creation. I spoke to two key members of said team: Alex Judd and Katherine Graham.

CM: Can you start by giving readers an idea of what type of show to expect? Can it be categorised by a genre?
AJ: ‘The Nature of Forgetting’ is a physical theatre piece with live music, that poses the question “what is left when memory is gone?” Although there is some text in the piece, there are no substantial lines of dialogue and so the story is expressed through physicality, music and lighting. The physicality is rooted in the technique of Corporeal Mime, which creates movement that is very precise and evocative. The music is performed by a percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, who together create a rhythmic soundscape that supports the emotional journey of the narrative. The whole show is framed by a dramatic and incredibly detailed lighting design.

CM: What story does it tell, and how? What themes does it explore?
KG: The show centres around quite an intimate story of a relatively young man, Tom, who at 55 is living with early onset dementia. We follow him as he tries to get ready for his birthday party, watching as his memories begin to flood his mind and then to fade away. Through that small story we hope to explore the bigger themes of – as Alex said – what is left when memory is gone; what happens to us as people when we start to lose the memories that shape us. And naturally, as the action moves through different moments of Tom’s life, the really big themes of family, love, and friendship filter through as well.

CM: Why did Theatre Re decide create a show on these themes? What was the inspiration for the piece?
KG: I think we were interested in trying to explore forgetting itself, it is a very potent idea that nonetheless seems really elusive; how do you talk about forgetting? A huge inspiration for us was our collaboration with Professor Kate Jeffery, who is a neuroscientist and shared fascinating insights into memory and memory loss with us. Her explanations of what happens in the brain when we construct or fail to construct memories provided what felt like a really exciting jumping off point for the show. So much of what we do in the show follows those ideas of construction and of broken – or breaking – connections that her insights have shaped the central theatrical metaphors in the piece.

CM: How was the show created? What was the process?
AJ: Theatre Re’s method of devising involves all members of the creative team being in the room from the very beginning. We start with a question that we would like to explore (in this case “what is left when memory is gone?”), along with a few works of literature or plays related to that subject that inspire us. But essentially, we start from scratch, improvising together in the same room around a given theme with a rough idea of the direction we want to head in. Little by little the material starts to emerge, which then informs the direction we continue in, and so on and so forth.

CM: Can you tell us about your own roles in it?
AJ: I composed the music for the show, and perform the music live with percussionists Chris Jones and Keiran Pearson. Onstage I use a keyboard, violin and loop pedal to build up musical textures that underscore the action and support the narrative of the piece. I also play the character of a teacher for about 30 seconds in the show!

KG: I’ve designed the lighting, which in the case of this show is a lot to do with taking the audience into Tom’s mind at times, and at other points to try to shift the focus, inviting the audience to see Tom from the outside. During the show the lighting tries to really emphasise how things are constructed in Tom’s memory, and also tries to communicate something about how it might feel when those memories start to tangle and fade away.

CM: We’ve been following Theatre Re’s work since we first witnessed it up in Edinburgh a few years ago. Can you tell us a bit about the company, and who is involved?
AJ: Theatre Re was founded by Guillaume Pigé in 2009, and ‘The Nature of Forgetting’ is the sixth production by the company. Along with Guillaume there are three other core members of the company who are associate artists: Katherine Graham (lighting designer), Malik Ibheis (costume designer) and me (composer). The company’s ethos is to create moving and thought-provoking work on the edge of physical theatre and mime, that examines fragile human conditions. With each project, we invite different collaborators to create the work with us in order to be able to draw from a rich and diverse range of influences.

CM: What would you say are the aims of the company? What ambitions do you have for the future?
KG: We aim to make vibrant and emotional work that uses a rich theatrical language of movement, music, light, and space. As a company I think we have a clear aesthetic but we really aim to go beyond a set style and to explore big questions about the human condition through performance. With every show we have made we have tried to push our work further and further, and each piece has been bigger than the last in some significant way. We plan to keep going on that trajectory, making more new shows and bringing our work to wider and wider audiences, nationally and internationally.

CM: What has kept you going back to edfringe? Will you continue to take shows up there?
KG: The Edinburgh Fringe is such an exciting festival to bring work to, a huge draw for us in returning has always been the opportunity to share our work with a wider audience. Last year we had audience members from all over the world come and see us in Edinburgh and that feels like such a privilege. The intensity of the festival is also not like anything else, performing the show every single day for the run means we get to make tiny magical discoveries in performing that keep the show feeling new and fresh. We don’t know what the future holds but hopefully we will continue to bring new work up there. This year we’re doing something very different at EdFringe and taking up a collaboration with Fourth Monkey Theatre Training Company.

CM: What’s coming up next after this tour?
AJ: Straight after the tour the company jumps back in to the next phase of research and development for new project ‘Birth’, with work-in-progress public sharings in July at the Point in Eastleigh, South Hill Park in Bracknell and St Ann’s library in London. The company then moves straight onto a collaboration with Fourth Monkey Actor Training Company in London, as mentioned earlier, as we put the finishing touches to a piece devised for 32 actors that will head up to the Fringe in August. ‘The Nature of Forgetting’ has a few months off over the summer, but returning triumphantly in the Autumn with a 5-week tour of North America!


‘The Nature Of Forgetting’ is on at Shoreditch Town Hall from 24-28 April, see the venue website here for information and to book.

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