Kat wakes up in hospital after a serious accident, in which her brain has been critically deprived of oxygen. She has trouble with her memory, forgetting words and basic cognitive functions like tying her shoelaces. Visited by her sister, Kat has a rocky road to recovery, as her mind goes into overdrive. In order to realign her mind, she must fight her anxieties and conquer her darkest fears.
Forget About the Dog‘s 100 Ways to Tie a Shoelace delves into the human mind and linguistics, providing a surreal insight into the psychological struggle of recovery after experiencing trauma. It achieves this by presenting physical manifestations of different aspects of Kat’s mind.
Expressive movement and puppetry is used to reconstruct the accident. Using wooden sticks and clothing, an abstract body is suspended in mid-air. Blue lighting and underwater sound effects indicate the reason why Kat’s brain has been starved of oxygen. Although never confirmed, surrealist physical movement implies that she was in a car that crashed into a body of water. Sticks are used to construct a window closing in above Kat, but she can’t break through it, and is entombed within the watery depths of a river.
This abstract surrealism is a truly wonderful way of storytelling. It is mysteriously intriguing, as everything is subject to individual interpretation. Nothing is explicit, only ever implied, granting artistic freedom, but also challenging the audience to work things out for themselves. Some may find it bizarrely confusing, but I find expressionist theatre like this refreshing and exciting.
Forget About the Dog skilfully blend this with traditional performance. However, they continue to push the boundaries between reality and fantasy, reflecting Kat’s psychological confusion, but also forming scenes of comedic brilliance.
Her internal dialogue is voiced by Jordan Larkin, who accompanies Kat on her journey to recovery, providing entertaining narration laced with wit and sarcasm. Anxiety attacks are physically manifested into a battlefield. Remembering words becomes a game of Kat’s Phrase, complete with an irritating game-show host. There is even a sleep induced conversation with her pillow. “Ever heard of anti-dandruff shampoo? I suggest you use it”.
A fantastic choice of music, Kat’s inner place of happiness is represented by Rupert Holmes’ Escape (the ‘Piña Colada’ song), as the physical representations of her mind lie on the beach, applying sun cream. Cleverly conceived, these scenes are hilarious, and result in the song becoming stuck in your head for days afterwards. I wish my happy place was drinking Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain!
Amidst this amusement, there is a more serious undercurrent, as Kat tries to rebuild her memories. Leanne Stenson is superb in this role, portraying her character’s vulnerability and weakness. Frustration is evident whenever Kat stumbles over words, trying to remember those she has forgotten. Stenson’s facial expressions are wonderful, particularly her perplexity when confronted with the bizarre manifestations within her own mind.
The estranged relationship with her sister is beautifully played by both Stenson and India Thompson. Awkwardness, tense arguments, and tender compassion are depicted by both actors, as their characters try to reconcile their differences.
There is no denying that Forget About the Dog are an incredibly talented ensemble of performers. 100 Ways to Tie a Shoelace is physically demanding on the whole group, yet they showed no signs of fatigue. They have produced a delightful, finely polished production that is hugely entertaining and completely bonkers. I am excited to see what the group do next!