'Forget Me Not' – Compagnie Philippe Genty | London International Mime Festival
In a stark icy blue landscape, an ape in a purple evening dress sings while, in the distance, we see small silhouettes of people pulling a sled across the snow. Later we learn these figures are undertakers, collecting bodies buried in the snow. Two of the bodies refuse to lie down and be taken away. In the final moments of the play, they remove themselves from the sled to walk together into the landscape.
‘Forget Me Not’ feels like a personal show from Philippe Genty and Mary Underwood (Genty's partner and choreographer), exploring the nature of memory and relationships. As the title suggests, there are moments when we see people struggling to find each other or hold onto things that are constantly shifting.
When the world is such an unstable place, it’s our memories and relationships that mean the most to us. Genty’s shows are known for their visual inventiveness but it’s the grounding in human relationships that prevents this from becoming simply indulgent spectacle.
While I may have hinted at a narrative, the structure of 'Forget Me Not' is quite fluid and it would be redundant to try to explain the work’s meaning. Rather we are asked to take a leap into a world with familiar resonances but is more of dreamlike state, where unusual events occur as a matter of course.
People appear and vanish in unusual ways; what you thought was a puppet is a real person; a smaller ape is pulled from inside the body of another person. Almost everything is ambiguous: it’s like discovering the world again as a child where preconceived notions of what might be possible don’t exist.
Human sized dummies occur throughout the piece, with each person carrying their own doppelganger, making the stage busy with bodies. It’s an interesting effect. There isn’t a great deal of nuance in the animation these life sized dummies can achieve – sometimes they’re dragged and even thrown – but there are also moments where it is hard to tell the real person from the dummy.
There are some real surprises and joyful moments in the piece: a woman rides on the back of a young tuxedoed ape; a huge sail-like black cloth spins and dances, creating unusual shapes that people are enveloped by; and, my favourite, three bouncing snowballs with replaceable heads, resembling something akin to baby penguins.
The performers often revert to slapstick in their interaction, which seems a little out of place. The slapstick feels quite dated and predictable, and not as intuitive in terms of choreography as other Genty works. The cast, while all very skilful, didn’t have the gravitas of some of the performers in his regular company.
However, ‘Forget Me Not’ is a beautiful show, containing both humour and sadness. It’s certainly a very accomplished work and one with the potential to speak across generations. It’s almost a given now with Genty’s work but it also has to be said that the lighting is beautiful and the music entrancing.
'Forget Me Not'
Compagnie Philippe Genty