Theatre review: Wilful Forgetting, Glasgow

Wilful Forgetting: Part installation, part soundscape, part monologue and cookery session

Wilful Forgetting: Part installation, part soundscape, part monologue and cookery session

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IN THIS show commissioned for Glasgay! 2013, writer and performance artist Donna Rutherford, with co-writer Martin O’Connor, continues the exploration of family life that last appeared in her powerful show Kin, about middle-aged people and their ageing parents.

Wilful Forgetting - Tron, Glasgow

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This time, though, her gentle gaze falls on mothers and sons, particularly when those sons are gay; and on how mothers react when their dreams of a perfect, conventional family life – captured in old photographs – are disrupted by a reality that doesn’t fit the picture.

Part installation, part soundscape, part monologue and cookery session, Wilful Forgetting lasts only 45 minutes, and still looks like a work in progress. At an onstage kitchen table, backed by tiny, flickering video screens, Rutherford whips up an apple sponge, while playing heart-wrenching tapes of a cookery session involving a mum and her toddler son, fragments of monologue by O’Connor, and rough-edged guitar and voice music by Pawet Bignall.

From time to time, Rutherford also wanders into a spotlight to reflect on the loss of the family photograph collection, with the coming of digital photography. And it’s here that the show’s unfinished quality seems most baffling, as she shuffles her way uncertainly through a series of prompt cards. The theme of this show is vivid, and some of the imagery hard to forget. Yet the ideas about family photography still seem under-developed; and nothing in the show is finally quite so haunting as the unexplained picture that inspired it, of a young mother in 1970s clothes standing in the sun outside a block of Scottish council flats, with her little toddler son in front of her held gently by the shoulders, as if to keep him from moving forward.

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