Review: Never Forget

By Stu Nimmo (Guest Blogger for April)

When: Saturday 6 April 2014, 8pm
Where: Live Theatre – Studio
Written by: Lee Mattinson
Director: Rosie Kellagher
Production Manager: Craig Davidson
Producer: Mark Labrow
Costume: Kate Eccles

The final instalment of the BITESIZE season of three touring short plays from new writers commissioned by Queen’s Hall Arts with support from Arts Council England. Hopefully there will be more to come next year…

Never Forget is a clever subversion of a traditional middle class tale, it satirises the middle classes and the kinds of stories they are often portrayed in. At its core, Martha and Fergus’ story is one of an under-sexed, repressed middle class marriage facing disaster as the result of infidelity.

The subversive twists are superb and inventive, moving the play away from all expectations.
Martha is recovering from a face transplant (after being caught in a blaze she’d been on a waiting list for years) and Fergus is just about handling the trauma of being her regular hospital visitor. Martha is keen to be more sexual in the future in her marriage with Fergus, Fergus is not so sure that kind of thing is the ‘done’ thing, and he doesn’t know what his wife looks like – she’s all bandaged up. Martha’s trauma has made her re-asses her life, how unfulfilled she’s been, how she can make changes, and can she make changes – will Fergus find her new face attractive?

So far a bit unusual, a twist yes – a face transplant – but nothing to make us unable to sleep at night or run naked, screaming through the streets of Aberdeen.

So the thing about Martha’s new face, the thing about the face, well the face once belonged to a young chap, a chap who used to play Gary Barlow in a Take That tribute act – she now wears the face she adored as a teenager. The thing about Fergus’s infidelity is, the thing about that is, well it was with the chap, the young chap whose face now adorns his wife. On the face of it, facing facts, Fergus has had sex with the face more recently than with Martha.
As the bandages are removed to reveal Martha’s new face, and her new approach to life, so Fergus recognises the face, and his guilt makes his secret impossible for him to keep. So begins the process which exposes Fergus’ infidelity and rocks their marriage to its foundations. Is Fergus in the closet? Can Martha forgive him? What exactly did Fergus do with the chap? Can Martha’s future include Fergus?

Issues of acceptance, identity, change, trust and guilt all collide amid some excellently funny, filthy lines.

The importance of our faces to us, to our understanding of ourselves is central to the play as Martha tries to make sense of her life and her future. Inevitably I (and I’m sure others in the audience did too) wondered how on earth I’d handle having a new face. My perception of my identity and personality is heavily influenced by the ugly mug staring back at me when I brush my teeth. That ridiculous countenance staring back in the mirror is also a fundamental part of how my family, friends and strangers perceive and understand who I am. If it changed to a Posh Spice lookalike’s face, would I hit myself with hammers? Or fancy myself (even more than I do now)?

The psychological challenges a new face must force on its recipient and others are no doubt varied and complex, Never Forget addresses some of these directly and implicitly raises others.

Great performances from Adam Donaldson as Martha and Chris Connel as Fergus deliver comedy and sensitivity. Adam’s clipped, softly voiced, Martha, replete with feminine mannerisms and low slung chest is touching and funny, especially when delivering some of the filthier lines. Trapped by his repressed middle class Englishness and appalled by his infidelity, Chris’ Fergus is a mess of uncertainty and misguided middle class attitudes – a treat.

Both characters go on personal journeys which Chris and Adam portray with clarity and affection. Together Martha and Fergus make a terrific comedic couple.

The whole piece is delivered in three scenes, neatly brought together into a concise whole by director Rosie Kellagher.

Ultimately Never Forget is a heart-warming story about forgiveness, acceptance and love. A story which is cunningly moved into a new dramatic space by writer Lee Mattinson’s inventiveness and craft.

This was the last of the BITESIZE commissions, the two I have seen (The Next Train To Depart written by John Challis, directed by Melanie Rashbrooke, was the other) were both fine new pieces, I hope the BITESIZE commissions return to create and tour more new plays.

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