This September, Pat Kinevane returned to the Droichead Arts Centre with Forgotten. The first in his trilogy of one-man shows, Forgotten is powerfully moving and disarmingly raw, as Kinevane leaves his audience in a state of both awe and awareness.
Kinevane plays four characters throughout the course of the play, each communicating their story to the audience through the means of a monologue. Each of the characters Kinevane portrays is intricately connected to the other three, and each has, for one reason or another, found themselves in a nursing home for the aged. From the senile farmer Florence, to the well-to-do dowager Dora, by way of stroke victim Gustus and aging biddy Epicuria, each character is fully drawn, brought vividly to life by Kinevane’s irrepressible charm. Kinevane develops a tangible rapport with the audience, building a connection throughout the performance, and it is this connection that makes Forgotten’s poignancy so effective. The disjointed nature of Forgotten’s storyline – each of the monologues is fractured, intertwining with the other three as Kinevane moves around the stage, assuming different parts – if anything only aids in creating the play’s whirlwind effect. One is left almost dazzled by the sheer detail and complexity of the piece, while simultaneously reeling from the piece’s visceral and raw presentation.
Kinevane’s natural comedic touch is of course present, along with a sense of downright pathos. In one segment, in which macra na feirme veteran Flor gets into an intense argument with an unseen nurse, the emotion Kinevane exposes gives a powerful blow to the gut. The constant shifting between this humour and despair is skillfully handled, with every moment – comic or otherwise – growing naturally and never feeling forced. It’s a credit to Kinevane’s range as a performer and Jim Culleton’s tight, superb direction, that he can convey all of this alone on stage and one gets the feeling that while watching Forgotten they are watching a master at work. As Kinevane darts around the stage laughing or crying (or at times both) one does not have to try hard to imagine the old man in a young body he is attempting to convey. Kinevane’s performance carries the entire show, and keeps the audience on board even at the weaker points of the script, though these are few and far between. Pat’s humanity is undeniable and addictive, his presence on stage a joy to watch and his sheer versatility makes Forgotten the experience it is.
As with all of Kinevane’s oeuvre, the muted but all-encapsulating lighting and sound design are superb. Kinevane crafts another world onstage, drawing from a variety of influences to land somewhere between rural Ireland and oriental Japan. One character in particular, intensive care patient Gus, is vividly realised, and aided immensely by these technical elements as Kinevane employs an ingenious use of sound and staging. The use of colours – primarily black and red – give the show a sense of continuity and flow, somewhat countering the distorted structure. While the stage is all but bare, with only three chairs and some seemingly inconsequential props, Kinevane embraces this minimalism, filling the empty space with performance, and his trademark humanity. The stage never feels sparse or desolate, rather the force of Kinevane’s showmanship seems difficult to contain. At certain points he even leaves the stage, extending this constructed reality into the aisles of the auditorium and involving the audience further. The constant invention exhibited in Forgotten makes it rich viewing, one can’t help but reflect further on the various elements of the show long after they’ve left the theatre.
The many movement pieces, some more abstract than others, that Kinevane performs throughout Forgotten, add a further layer to the piece. At many stages, Forgotten stops being a play and becomes a show. How much an audience member enjoys these sections will depend on how willing they are to abandon formal constraints entirely, but their inherent, almost subconscious power can’t be denied. It is thanks to these abstract movements that Forgotten takes on such a contemplative edge. Free from any restrictions Kinevane can fully let loose and tell his own story, a story told in indefinite but no less powerful terms. At the post-show talk for this showing an audience member noted that Kinevane’s performance was almost savant-like, and this is in a sense the perfect way to describe it. Kinevane, and Forgotten as a whole, seems to exist in another dimension, on another plane, and it is here, at the farthest edges of reality that Forgotten truly comes into it’s own. It will undoubtedly be too far for some, and there are sections during which one longs for something to be grounded, but the overall product is successful in its goal: to get the audience thinking.
If Forgotten’s aim is to make people think, it certainly gives them food for thought. Kinevane has powerful things to say about our society, and in particular the way we treat our elderly. Forgotten manages to pass judgement on its audience while never alienating them and by virtue of being contained in such an enthralling production Kinevane’s message resonates all the better. Forgotten is a poetic parable about our modern world, and with Kinevane’s genius at the helm, an unmissable theatrical experience.