Review: Forgotten Places

A theatrical playground to choose your own adventure

By Owen James

Step into a place you might have forgotten – your colourful and playful childhood – with Citizen Theatre’s Forgotten Places. As you follow your nose between the Water Room, Mirror Room, Fun Room and Gift Room, this choose-your-own-adventure theatrical playground is calming and joyful.

With minimal dialogue and colourful costumes, director Jayde Kirchert has created a world that explores the boundaries between theatre and performance art that brings out the wide-eyed child hidden inside everyone. It’s impossible not to have fun in this magical place. A useful map guides us between each space, with a new act of music, dance, clowning, marshmallow snacks or paper treats to find behind each wall.

Designer Stu Brown is behind the transformation of the (recently renovated) Chapel mezzanine into this world fascinated with colour and meditative stimuli, without which there would be no show. It’s a perfect use for this unique space – no regular theatre show would be at home here like Forgotten Places is. Brown’s open-plan layout reminds us of the importance of removing division and borders from creativity.

But it’s the five-strong ensemble that really brings Kirchert’s ideas to life, embodying theatre as play in every stylised movement and moment. Willow Sizer’s voice is utterly mesmerising, Tomas Parrish can gleefully gestate any name into a personalised movement, Jordan Barr makes me cackle with perfectly spoken nonsense and a lesson in how to properly eat a marshmallow, Margot Tanjutco is hypnotising with beautiful uninhibited movement, and Kayla Hamill’s perfect sense of comedy makes me laugh over and over by simply saying “art over here, art over there”.

Music composed (and performed live) by Imogen Cycler is integral to creating the magical feeling that hovers throughout the air in this place. Her music is cyclic (no relation), repeating lyrics to emphasise their value, set to heavenly and haunting melodies that linger long after they finish.

Devising thematic content around the “four pillars of the City of Stonnington’s strategic plan for an inclusive, healthy, creative, sustainable and smart community” is a concept admittedly a little on the nose (though surely very receptive to council funding applications), but thankfully has inspired Citizen Theatre to create this very successful production.

It’s a sign of well-crafted escapism when at the end of an interactive experience as colourful and playful as Forgotten Places, I realise I hadn’t thought for a whole sixty minutes about my upcoming house move or the long to-do list waiting for me at work tomorrow – a cherished moment of calm. Forgotten Places is relaxing, safe and silly in the best of ways – not to mention very child friendly (the toddlers at our performance were having the time of their lives). Congratulations to Citizen Theatre for their latest fascinating, immersive, and calming outing – and for daring to create a world so special.

Forgotten Places was performed at Chapel off Chapel 13 – 17 February 2019.

Photograph: supplied