Pros: The play takes what could have been a grim subject matter and gives it an unconventional spin.
Cons: Brainville At Night swings back and forth from naturalism to heightened reality, which not everyone may find appealing.
Plays about the mind and our emotions have been on the rise in recent years with the likes of Barney Norris’ Visitors and Peter Brook’s The Man Who. First Draft’s production Brainville At Night, which has been in development for more than a year, started via a very personal route. Evolving initially from a poem and short story, Alexander Moschos’ experiences as a carer provide invaluable insight into the way dementia affects the individual afflicted, as well as those who care for them.
The action in the play primarily oscillates between Ingrid (who suffers from frontotemporal dementia) and her husband Sven, and the film noir-esque setting of a young man in post-war Sweden. There is much humour to be found during these scenes as the young man banters with a barman before the arrival of a femme fatale changes his life forever. Sven finds it hard to deal with Ingrid’s childlike regressive episodes, so he employs a part-time carer. However, instead of the expected stereotypical female, a young male carer arrives. This makes Sven uncomfortable, but unbeknownst to him the youthful carer triggers memories within Ingrid of her younger self…
One of the things that Brainville At Night does well is depicting the interior world of Ingrid. While to the outside observer she behaves irrationally and obstinately, internally her mind is still as lucid and articulate as it was when Ingrid was a young woman. Unable to communicate and relate to the present, Ingrid’s memories of being an amorous young woman come to the fore, proof indeed that formerly dormant feelings of love and physical desire are very much present in her mind.
Hats off to the principal actors Ilona Linthwaite and Robert Hickson, whose core presence grounded the play in its naturalistic and dreamlike elements. The younger members of the cast also provided amiable support, bringing a lot of charm and energy to the proceedings: Eddie Usher as the stoical carer and comical young doctor at the bar; Sophie Dora-Hall as the forthright, unfazed carer as well as her role as the sultry mysterious woman; Julia Faulkner as the intrusive Lottie; and Louise Torres-Ryan as Ingrid’s daughter, who understandably wonders if her mother’s neurological disorder is hereditary.
Asides from the actors, what united the past and present in the play were the fantastic video projections by Mafalda Cruz. Ranging from neon lights to electrical activity in the brain, Cruz has managed to convey much about the surroundings and mood of the play with a modicum of space and a lot of talent.
First Draft should be applauded for taking the time to develop and nurture the talents that led to the inception of Brainville At Night. Theatres may shy away from a long term production or investment, but Brainville At Night is proof that the risk can pay off. It is evident that First Draft believes in the merits of this play, and the work they have produced with their collaborators speaks for itself.
Author: Alexander Moschos
Director: Matthew Parker
Producer: First Draft – Laura Harling
Sound: Andy Graham
Projection & Video: Mafalda Cruz
Designer: Sara Polonghini
Lighting: Tom Kitney
Box Office: 0844 412 4307
Booking Until: 3 May 2014