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‘The Nature Of Forgetting’ Prompts Reflections On The Beauty And Fragility Of Life

'Nature of Forgetting' play

"The Nature of Forgetting" from Theatre Re will be performed Tuesday, November 12 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana. National Taichung Theater

A play coming to Urbana this week explores the question: What is left of an individual once they start losing their memories?

The Nature of Forgetting” will be performed one night only, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuedsay, November 12 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

The piece tells the story of Tom, 55, who has early-onset dementia and is cared for by his daughter Sophie.

Guillaume Pigé, artistic director of the London-based Theatre Re, said the play, which incorporates music, movement and theater, aims to celebrate memory and a life well-lived.

The opening scene depicts Tom struggling to get dressed on the morning of his 55th birthday. As he touches different articles of clothing on the rack, each one triggers a new memory from his life, which then comes to life on stage.

“And as he’s trying to remember (those experiences), little by little the memories start to disappear,” Pigé said.

Theatre Re - The Nature of Forgetting from Baylin Artists Management on Vimeo.

He said the group started with the question: How do memories work? The members of the Theatre Re ensemble explored the topic through movement, music and objects.

“It was really about finding a tool to communicate,” Pigé said. “We start by moving, playing, exploring with objects, which at the beginning don’t mean much, but little by little, ideas start to emerge.”

The group then worked with neuroscientist Kate Jeffery to find bridges between the science of memory and the theatrical exploration. 

“Little by little, we were able to use some of the scientific knowledge that we discovered with Professor Jeffery to make sense of the things discovered in the room,” Pigé said. “And it was like a back-and-forth, like a ping-ping game between what we had, what we knew, and so on and so forth.”

He said the biggest challenge in creating the piece was figuring out how to make the invisible memories from Tom’s life visible.

Pigé said he hopes the piece prompts people to reflect on the beauty and fragility of life.

“I think it's definitely a celebration of life,” he said. “What we hope is that people leave with maybe a tear in the eye and a big smile on their face, being reminded of the fragility of life and how important it is to live the present moment and celebrate it with the people you love.”

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman