Dare to Know Theatre
Salford Arts Theatre, Salford
Jake Talbot made a strong impression with Drowning, his first play for Dare to Know Theatre. The Forgotten proves this was not a fluke.
George (sole on-stage performer Jeff Longmore) has early onset dementia and his family, struggling to cope, move him into a new care facility. But George’s condition unearths memories of a trauma suffered in his childhood, which he kept secret and possibly repressed, resulting in him making unfounded accusations against his new carers to the confusion of his family.
The Forgotten is an ambitious play. Although Talbot does not name names, it is possible to read between the lines and work out George was a victim of Sir Cyril Smith who abused teenage boys in a hostel he co-founded but whose crimes, although known to his political party and the authorities, were concealed rather than revealed.
As George is an amateur magician. Talbot compares the cover-up to a magic trick, pointing out magicians are people who invite trust but are actually deceivers and The Magic Circle acts to preserve their interests by concealing how tricks are performed. The story is filtered through George’s confused perception and it is remarkable how Talbot’s skilful storytelling ensures the plot is vivid and clear.
Although The Forgotten is a monologue, Miranda Parker directs as if it is a full-cast play. Extensive use is made of recorded voices with whom Jeff Longmore interacts. The ambitious technique adds to the menacing atmosphere of the play as George flinches away from the voices of his abusers and struggles to distinguish friend from foe. George’s deteriorating mental condition is reflected visually with spiralling, sparkling psychedelic lighting.
Jeff Longmore delivers a tour-de-force. There are flickers of George’s adult personality—a bit of a flirt, proud of his appearance—but the character is rapidly regressing to childhood. No wonder George’s family and carers struggle to understand—they think they are communicating with an adult, while George has become obsessed with putting right a trauma from his youth.
A vulnerable Longmore demonstrates the corrosive impact of dementia. A once-confident George has developed an anxious personality—timid, compliant and eager to agree to things he no longer understands. Underneath, however, is a burning sense of injustice articulated in a child’s petulant manner. Ironically, dementia may be the lesser of George’s problems.
A strong script and excellent performance ensure The Forgotten is hard to forget.
Reviewer: David Cunningham