Forget Me Not
Belvoir Street Theatre, April 24
A new Australian play, written for Belvoir by Tom Holloway, has emerged out of a shocking, and shockingly recent, chapter in the country’s history.
As late as the 1970s, children were removed from their homes and families in Britain and deported to Australia. What awaited these children was much crueller, and more permanently damaging than the poverty they left behind.
Gerry (Colin Moody) is one of the casualties of the scheme. Now around sixty, he still lives in its shadow, and is disastrously ill-equipped to provide his harried adult daughter Sally (Mandy McElhinney) – even at her most wanting – with anything but more hurt.
Out of a sense of repentant duty to her, though, Gerry begins the painful excavation of his past. As the story alternates fluidly between timelines, we witness Gerry's stumbling attempts to grapple with what is uncovered, a process that will sorely test his capacity to love and be loved.
Holloway’s restrained script places special emphasis on the lingering uneasy silences that sit alongside the sorrow of Gerry’s ordeal. As deployed by Moody, Gerry’s muteness – not just his refusal to speak but his inability to do so – is even more complexly expressive than words.
There’s a similar absence of superfluous directorial noise from Anthea Williams. With a sensitivity to text one would expect of Belvoir’s literary manager, she places her full trust in story, clearing Dan Potra’s miniature set of clutter and allowing performers and audience alike the room to exhale.
Williams’ generous direction also highlights the strength of Moody’s performance. The last time the actor was granted a set-trashing outburst on the Belvoir stage in 2011’s Measure for Measure, he was a man raging at the world.
The weird echo of that sequence in Forget Me Not presents instead a picture of a man raging at himself. His Gerry is fearful rather than fearsome, dragging his self-loathing brokenness across increasingly difficult terrain.
Holloway doesn’t let Gerry off the hook for his own misdeeds, but Moody’s portrayal is so stirring and sympathetic that the closure he ultimately attains feels like ours too.