I Forgot To Remember To Forget @ Space Theatre, Adelaide 6/7/2019

I tried to resist the temptation to say that I Forgot to Remember to Forget is an unforgettable experience. But succumbed.

This is an unforgettable show; there are so many layers and stories and experiences in this truly beautiful, uplifting performance presented by No Strings Theatre of Disability. Devised by Alirio Zavarce in collaboration with Michaela Cantwell, Kathryn Hall, Kym Mackenzie, Duncan Luke and Cassie Litchfield this is Verbatim Theatre or “Documentary Theatre” as Zavarce calls it, and brings to the stage raw energy presented by authentic voices. Zavarce is at the top of his game in this performance and brings in a light directorial touch which doesn’t preach, leaving the audience feeling enriched, because they have left the theatre having walked side by side with people who have faced some considerable challenges and witnessed the dignity and humanity inherent in their stories.

The scenarios, presented as a series of vignettes, show the power that stories have in looking at the humanity that binds us rather than what sets us apart. Michaela Cantwell, formerly of Brink Theatre makes a welcome return to the stage after her stroke, and talks candidly about memory and re-learning everything she forgot. The vivacious Kathryn Hall flippantly talks about simple experiences like forgetting to ask whether her bus is coming to or going from the city, and how this can change the course of a whole day.

These are real and heart-warming stories of survival. We also witness the heart break of lives falling apart as families come to grips with living with someone who develops aggressive tendencies resultant from a bipolar condition. Most importantly, I Forgot to Remember to Forget is about the importance of the memories that shape us as human beings. As Zavarce said in an interview for Hi Fi Way, “It makes something so intangible like memory and forgetting, tangible. It will touch you and it will make people see their own memories and experiences of forgetting and remembering from a new perspective.”

These stories are enhanced by some truly inspired lighting by Katherine Kleemann and projection “wizardry”, as it says in the programme notes, devised by Alirio Zavarce, Matt Crook and Brad Thomson. The projections are intelligently conceived and make use of multiple projection surfaces from a cyclorama screen to roll on and off wooden blocks created by Shane Pope to hand held boards devised by Zavarce. The images are evocative, sometimes enhancing the story-line to being fragments of the imagination or memory. Kym Mackenzie shows off how many bus routes he can remember and the projections playfully create a wall of numbers and routes that engulf the storytelling. The hand held boards serve as a close up to guide us through the memories associated with an everchanging Adelaide landscape.

To quote from Zavarce’s Hi Fi Way interview again, “At No Strings, we believe in breaking the ‘fifth wall’ – the barriers associated with disability. We entertain while we empower and we celebrate ability while being committed to excellence and innovation.” And this is the best thing about this performance. It reaffirms the power that the Arts have in making a difference, in empowering people, in changing lives.

I Forgot to Remember to Forget comes to Adelaide after a sell-out season at the True Colours Festival in Singapore 2018. This is an important play which needs to be seen. Hopefully an opportunity will arise for it to go on tour.

Theatre Review By Bob Becker