Mar 22

Jim Forgetting tells narrative like puzzle pieces

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is often diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, but early onset Alzheimer’s can occur. The disease is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050. This illness is the subject of Verb Theatre’s play this season, Jim Forgetting.

The play opens to a couple, playing crib. We immediately know that Jim (Haysam Kadri) isn’t completely okay. His wife, Donna, (Shawna Burnett) informs the audience that Jim “forgets everything, but not how to play cards.” From here, we are launched into the ins and outs of their relationship and the impacts of Jim being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Jim learns that he suffers from the disease in a poignant scene towards the middle of the play, and it is revealed to the audience that both he and Donna are in their thirties. We follow Jim and Donna through the pain, sadness and logic of being hit with this particular illness, at such a young age.

Needless to say, Jim Forgetting is not a comedic play, though it does have its funny moments. The twelve scenes unfold and we see Jim at his very worst in the illness and at his very best. The marking of time is a calendar in the corner, displaying the month and the year. And this is what makes Jim Forgetting very compelling. The despair of the disease is lessened when the scenes skip around, allowing the audience to experience the narrative like puzzle pieces. As Jim’s memory deteriorates, Donna uses tools to cope with losing her husband while still having him be right there. We watch her deny that she will lie to him or make things up because he won’t remember anything anyway at the beginning of the play, then we see her struggle to reach into the depths of his memory to pull back the man she knows and loves. Fact and fiction blur and the audience feels like they exist in the recesses of Jim’s memory.

One scene in particular stands out, when Donna lies to her friend, telling her that Jim made her dinner and bought a cake for her fortieth birthday when Jim is much too ill to be capable of that. Her attempt to spark his memory and bring him back to life, like turning a key in an ignition is touchingly tragic.

Adding layers to the story is the sound design, weaving in and out of the play, giving background and emotionality by repetition. The audience gets to tap into the feelings of both the people suffering from the disease and the people supporting them. This makes the story multidimensional.

The set is adorned in cloth coverings, with mugs lining the shelves. It is chaotic and messy.
Motel Theatre is a small space and director Jamie Dunsdon decided to have the stage take place in the middle with the audience on either side. This creates an almost uncomfortably intimate space, being in the midst of the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Jim Forgetting features some outstanding performances. Burnett, as Donna, is emotive and wild, playing her role with such accuracy that it’s hard to keep your eyes off her. Kadri is phenomenal as Jim, flicking between a full character to a carcass of a man with grace.

At some point Donna says “it’s tempting to see what the disease takes away, instead of what you can prevent it from taking.”
Jim Forgetting is a close examination of the intricacies and shadows that haunt the people affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and is quietly heartbreaking.

Jim Forgetting runs at the EPCOR CENTRE’S Motel until March 31st. Tickets are available online or at the door. More information is available at

Photo Credit: Jamie Dunsdon

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