Pros: An interesting premise exploring of the depths of human relationships.
Cons: This production is a bit rough around the edges and somewhere settled between rehearsed reading and staged play.
As part of the Camden Fringe Festival, Off The Page! Theatre Company presents Fade to Blackout by Dorothy Schwarz. Off The Page! was founded in 2002 by Ben Bazell and Patti Holloway to bring works of lesser known writers on stage. Both founders are contributing to this production, with Bazell directing and Holloway taking the lead as Sara Ackroyd .
The entirety of the play takes place in a sparsely furnished room in a hospice where Sara is in care of the affectionate nurse Berenice (Cleo Sylvestre). Her only visitor is her daughter Megan (Kelda Holmes), a professional filmmaker who ruthlessly uses her mother’s fragile constitution in order to create a documentary on death. Berenice tries to appeal to Megan’s tactfulness to retain Sara’s dignity, but falls on deaf ears. The relationship between mother and daughter is broken; there seem to be too many unspoken accusations between them. Sara herself doesn’t understand what’s going on around her and still thinks she will recover soon. She hears voices from the past and sees their image in a mirror that hangs on the wall of her room.
Schwarz’ play approaches the delicate topic of an estranged mother-daughter couple and their last chance to set things right before their time is up. I expected to see a sensitive family drama, but the scenes between mother and daughter didn’t show a change in their cold relationship. For about half of the time, the mother was the only person on stage, lying in bed and lost in reminiscences of her past. By this technique, we found out much about her past and dark secrets she had kept hidden from her family for 50 years. The references to other members of the family were confusing in the beginning, but started to make sense after a while.
For my personal taste, the play emphasised too much the perspective of the confused mother instead of showing how her decreasing health influences the life of her daughter. I wasn’t emotionally involved in the story.
At the play’s start, I struggled a lot with background noises. The ventilation system was very loud and I couldn’t really hear Holloway’s faint voice. Even more unfortunately, my view was obstructed by the mirror frame, which hung right in front of the audience. I think the production could have easily done it without this prop.
Overall, the performance felt more like a rehearsed reading, although it wasn’t described as such. Daughter and nurse were off book, but the mother was reading the script, hindered her acting. The play itself has an interesting plot, but it doesn’t hold what it promises. With Megan constantly being angry about her mother, and Sara’s blurry-voiced memories, I completely forgot what this play was really about: the tragedy of losing someone, who might be the most important person in your life.
Author: Dorothy Schwarz
Director: Ben Bazell
Producer: Off the page!
Booking Until: This production has completed its run.