Friday 28 October 2016

The Forgotten at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin review: 'It is wonderful to see the Abbey stage being used like this, exploiting all of its potential'

Sophie Gorman

Published 13/11/2015 | 12:45

The Forgotten, Abbey Theatre
The Forgotten, Abbey Theatre

A man dies, but is not fully dead. A woman must find him before he is lost forever. Her adventures are physical and psychological, as if she is exploring chambers of her own mind – and attempting to break free of them. She escapes on flights of fancy, literal swooping ones, and is confronted with her own future, the journey from young girl to old woman.

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Presented by Crying Out Loud, this often stunning new production by Raphaelle Boitel is as much dance theatre as it is aerial circus. Exploring the female id, it has a sense of being trapped in haunted sadness until finally considering happiness. There is also much humour, the black comedy of seeing a man being vigorously resuscitated in a wonderful piece of shadow theatre, the Benny Hill laughter when generations of the same woman chase each other around the giant stage. Indeed, the real comedy star is Boitel’s own mother, Lilou Herin, who steals the spotlight with her enviable timing.

There is a sense of cinema, both in terms of influences and in the scope and vision of the scenes created in front of us, we often view them through a gauze curtain as if on a screen. It breaks out of monochrome at a certain point, but the brief introduction of colour is surprisingly not a strong feature, indeed there is more power in the starkness of the black and white imagery.

It is wonderful to see the Abbey stage being used like this, exploiting all of its potential. Directed by Boitel, this company are remarkable; they bend, they dance, they sing, they soar impossibly through the air. Their interactions are both tender and full of trust.

There is not a strong narrative through-line, it is more a series of tableaux, as if flicking through a kineograph. And there are beautiful moments, a levitating woman wraps herself in a sheet and becomes the sea, autumn leaves crash down on a couple entwined, a woman looks into a mirror to see her past and her future reflected ingeniously. But somehow not quite enough. We are greedy for more because these glimpses are so extraordinary.

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