JOYCE MCMILLAN on WILFUL FORGETTING at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 8.11.13.
3 stars ***
IN THIS NEW SHOW COMMISSIONED for Glasgay! 2013, the 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. 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 very much like a work in progress. At an onstage kitchen table, backed by tiny flickering video-screens showing a glowing hearth or old family pictures, Rutherford whips up and bakes a gorgeous apple sponge, which the audience is invited to share; while playing heart-wrenching tapes of a cookery session involving a mum and her little toddler son, fragments of monologue by O’Connor, and rough-edged guitar and voice music put together 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 1970’s clothes standing in the sub 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.