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Black Hole
-Forget Me Not at the Albany Empire, London International Mime Festival, January 2004

Reviewed by Dorothy Max Prior


Black Hole's Forget Me Not is described as 'a one-man show but not quite a solo turn' by director Andy Lavender, which turned out to be the understatement of all time. It seemed almost as if he and his collaborators had asked how they could make life as difficult as possible for themselves. Perhaps by choosing to create a show that features puppetry, pyrotechnics, aerial skills, film -and a life-size animated horse? This is just what Black Hole took on board to create their spectacular Forget Me Not for the London International Mime Festival 2004

Forget Me Not is an extraordinary piece of theatre -being a show about one man and his horse that 'boasts at least 40 hands -and we are not talking horse height'. The man in question is avant-clown Paka, the horse a magnificent construction of tubular steel, motorbike parts and assorted metallic oddments with an old theatre-lantern for a head. Operated by remote control, it breathes, snorts and charges across the stage when summoned.


The show was conceived by Paka (a well known face in the contemporary circus and street arts community) and puppeteer Sara Wright. On stage, Paka as solo clown-actor is supported by Sarah and her team of puppet operators and stage crew. In the tradition honoured by puppeteers throughout time, and taken up by experimental theatre makers such as Kantor, all the puppet operators-cum-crew stay in full view of the audience and all scene-changing takes place before our eyes. As any one who has performed in this way can verify, the audience have no need to have the mechanics of the operations hidden -they are completely prepared to enter into the magical illusion. Our disbelief is not suspended by a naturalistic enactment of incidents from a man's life, but by the power of true theatricality as we are taken on a journey back in time.


The show starts with an enchanting miniature circus, the tent flaps going back to reveal tiny horses and flying acrobats -beautifully crafted small rod puppets animated by the puppeteers. The makers are an international team that includes Roy Gurvitz and Lyndie Wright from Little Angel, amongst many others. We then encounter Paka as an elderly occupant of a hospital or care home, who escapes by tying his sheets together, climbing out of the window and -in a moment of perfectly enacted theatricality -suddenly appears above the audience's head as he climbs down to escape into his pre-death dream world of a re-evaluation of life events, alternative histories and reconciliation with torments.

His journey has echoes of Don Quixote (an ongoing artistic obsession for Paka) and also reflects the classic circus story of the clown in love with the lovely trapeze artist. One of the joys of the show is the use of different scales the miniature rod-puppet lady at the beginning re-emerging as a mid-size horse-riding doll and then as a full-size red dress that flies across the space.

I saw this show on its opening night. Inevitably, there were transition moments that could have gone smoother. The pace could have been more varied, and Paka needs to be clear where he is at each moment of the show - for example, when he climbs onto his horse, is he an old man still or has he become his youthful self? These dramaturgical decisions of course affect the physical tone of his performance. But despite these slight reservations, I found it to be a wonderful and inspiring show that deserves to be seen throughout the country and beyond.


Festival directors, funders, promoters and bookers take note -here is an innovative cross-artform British show with an international cast of creators. Forget me Not is a show that is highly visual and physical that could and would appeal to people of all ages, all nationalities and all cultures -being a universally-understood tale of human strengths and frailties, love and loss. It has taken a massive collaborative effort to come this far -and deserves to go further.




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