After his recent break-up, Stevie (Declan Rogers), at 25 is a broken man, self-imprisoned in his dingy student flat and an ill-fitting pink dressing gown once owned by his beloved ex-girlfriend. Stevie’s mourning is abruptly interrupted by a visit from his mother Dorothy (Carol Moore) and sister Rebecca (Abigail McGibbon) for the purpose (once they’d clarified he was still alive) of checking if he wanted to join them for church, which he promptly declines citing his commitment to Buddhism. After trying to schedule their next meet up around her Ulster Scots language class, Rebecca urges her brother to go out there and find someone else – and a new woman he does indeed find. After a chance encounter in a coffee shop Stevie strikes up a conversation with Glaswegian widower Martha (Karen Dunbar), a year shy of twice his age. Hugely different, yet perhaps emotionally in a similar place they embark on an exciting sexual relationship, with no promises or expectations it’s all in good fun until inevitably his family find out with ridiculous yet uncomfortably real consequences.
The level of intimacy in this play, between the characters and the audience was instantly apparent; with the majority of the acts happening behind closed doors, away from the day-to-day of keeping up appearances. Revealing the more human side to the characters. Whether it being what was beyond the mother’s shy well dressed and ready for church going character or the fragility behind our lead’s confident persona.
David Ireland’s script was well observed engrossing you into familiar situations and family life that sets up the intensity of the more awkward comedic moments in later acts. Dorothy and Rebecca were thoroughly entertaining with Rebecca receiving the biggest laughs from the audience with her exercise in Ulster Scots hospitality.
The small cast of only 4 really helped contribute to the intimate feeling of the play, you really felt like you were in the scenes with them. Again this made the awkward humour really effective and cringe worthy – so cringe worthy that the audience where sitting in what we can only describe as comedic disbelief at how real yet out of this world the scenarios where. We found it a brave script that could have come off a bit childish or just tired (what with the sectarian back and forth lines) with the wrong actors, it could have easily failed but everyone involved cast, crew and director help deliver each part so well it makes this performance fresh and genuine in every way.
We felt also that Martha stood out incredibly as an amazing balance of tragic and charming. A potentially creepy character if in less talented hands, but she was played so well you could help but route for her. It would be remiss if we did not mention Stevie after all he is the main focus of the story, it’s his break up, his lover and his family that shape him, a man raised by women, growing up without a father it’s interesting to see how this everyman behaves. At times he is both rebellious and compliant, he is at that age where we all try and find ourselves but just end up sounding foolish, his love for Martha is one of the most genuine things in his life and its played so beautifully, yet with a great deal of comedy.
The play would have been empty without Stevie’s mother and sister. Yes we mentioned them earlier but they were just so funny, anyone familiar with the geography of Belfast or a passing knowledge of Ulster-Scots would be in tears of laughter at these two women that bring a great deal of life into this story – though each character was played confidently and well.
Rather late on in the play, Stevie’s ex Ciara (Naomi Rocke) is introduced, though her part is seemingly fleeting it felt right because even though she was the force that sprung this whole scenario into action, by the end of the story she meant almost nothing to Steve, she was merely a place holder and her quick passing helps illuminate further on Steve and Martha’s relationship.
The acts where divided with music of hip-hop and soul, helping further diversify the two leads and really pushing out their age difference. With the soul music you had this tender and beautiful sound from another era, which helped reinforce Martha’s gentle persona, while the hip-hop further highlighted Steve’s often crass and vulgar thoughts. But these tracks where only between scenes so if the music was not your taste don’t worry the story always picks up right and quick. Throughout the set was simple, yet effective and every turnaround between acts was slick and without fault.
As a story effectively maintained the sub themes of dealing with grief, whether it be from a husband, through chance, malicious intent, or the father you never knew, loss is as much a part of this play as the generation gap. Though the play is filled with crude humour it still has plenty of wit, irony and familiar situations, ranging from the big sister who always knows when you’re lying right down to being caught red handed, this play really speaks to everyone on a personal level. A play about loss it also deals with that fact that sometimes in life we need to lose something just to gain space for something new and wonderful, Steve was born after his Father’s tragic Death and Martha and Steve only got together through their shared loss, there is a deep beauty in that thought. The audience last night was varied in age and gender with the majority of this mix simultaneously laughing and cringing throughout. Whilst we don’t recommend going to see this with your family, Can’t Forget About You is a great night out with some friends with guaranteed laughs.