22 December 2015

Forget me Not at Bush Theatre told a sad story with sympathy and intelligence

The Bush Theatre is on my list of favourite theatres where I check the listings regularly and go to see quite a few of the shows. Competition for time is tough so while I see quite a few shows there I still need some sort of compelling reason to see a show to go. The compelling reason this time was Eleanor Bron.

One of the reasons that I like the Bush Theatre is the cafe which is a welcoming place to wait before the show and to grab a moment with the cast afterwards. This visit worked exceedingly well and I managed to both have something Christmassy (a mince-pie with my coffee on arrival) and a reminder of India (the stew of the day was spinach and paneer). All that remained was to get a beer to take into the theatre. A promising start to the evening.

For once I relaxed and did not fight to be near the front of the queue but still managed to be near enough to the front of the queue to get a seat in the middle of one of the two front-rows.

The seating is arranged slightly differently on each visit that I make and this time it was just on two sides of the stage. As usual the staff were on the look-out for people trying to take photographs of the set and as usual (but not always) I managed to take one anyway. I really have no idea why they do that when most theatres do not bother.

Starting the play with an actor on stage is a common trope and as we entered the main character, Russell Floyd as Gerry.

When the play started Gerry nervously entered a house in Liverpool for an emotional, and difficult, meeting with Eleanor Bron. His Australian accent and her Liverpudlian one suggested why they had not met for a long time.

The story then went back to Australia and we gradually learned about how the meeting came about and why it was necessary. This was the story of children deported to the colonies for their own good over a period of several decades. A lot of the details became public when Gordon Brown made an apology for the scheme in 2010. By telling us just one of the 130,000 stories Forget me Knot made the tale more personal and more dramatic.

The simplest way of interpreting the story was that Gerry was damaged by his harsh and unloved childhood, he had been a slave on a farm, and this had led to his broken life that included busts of rage and heavy use of alcohol. I think that there was more to the story than that and there were hints in the Eleanor Bron character that some of this may have been inherited; the old nature v nurture debate. Russell Floyd and I disagreed over this afterwards.

Whatever the truth of the story it was told with panache, wit and a little magic. The magic was the set changes that were made in the total dark and the last change was made with the lights still on to let us into the secret.

The only two other cast members played their supporting roles well, Sarah Ridgeway as Gerry's daughter Sally who helped to keep him roughly on an even keel and Sargon Yelda as the man who solved the mystery of Gerry's past. I was pleased to be able to grab a few words with Sargon at the station afterwards. It was only later when researching for this blog that I realised that this was the fourth time that I had seen him on stage, twice at the Bush and twice at the Arcola.

Forget me Not and the Bush Theatre did all that I could have asked of them all evening, an intelligent and thoughtful play in a good setting.

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