Pros: An accomplished piece of social theatre, intended to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.
Cons: If you’re familiar with the topic, be ready to push back many tears.
In partnership with The Alzheimer’s Society, Black Coffee Theatre has produced an original work to confront the startling realities of dealing with Alzheimer’s, and under playwright and director Luke Adamson, the outcome is effortless and straightforward. This touching story leads its audience to face a truth from which nobody is immune: dementia affects nearly half a million people in the UK and the numbers are bound to grow.
When Alice (Annie Sawle) loses her beloved husband, her daughter Mandy (Susan Mitchell) steps in, to offer support to her daily routine. Following the discovery of an old photo album, a trip to Blackpool seems the right way to cheer up the elderly lady and refresh, with the echo of a long-past holiday, her slowly fading memory. But the city has changed drastically and this causes turmoil in Alice’s vulnerable mind.
Fortunately the hotel manager Georgette is there to help, providing some wise advice to a frustrated Mandy and much needed laughter to an emotional public. Andrina Carroll gives the character a comic spin, dictated mostly by her bodily presence and facial expressions. But she also gives voice to the hunting thoughts and darkest feelings of whom has to deal with mental illness.
The Hope Theatre is an intimate space above the Hope & Anchor pub in Islington. Two rows of chairs form the 50-seat auditorium and surround the performance space on three sides. The fourth side is backed by a stack of carton boxes which serve as set and props. There is no stage and all the attention is focused on the escalation of the drama. The three characters work well and don’t seem bothered at all by the proximity of the audience. Their energy and fragility come across as sharp as a glass about to break. We can hear them breathing, we can feel their pain and we partake in their sense of desperation when Alice and Mandy are forced toadmit that Alzheimer can strike anyone.
This play is an excellent example of how, in the last decades, theatre has begun to move away from conventional techniques to become a channel through which the producers aim to entertain the public, while addressing serious issues that affect our society. One Last Waltz does it well and, as someone who’s had multiple cases of dementia in the family, I appreciated the frankness of this script in reminding us all that we can have an active role in improving the quality of life of our loved ones. Go to see it and spread the word.
Author and Director: Luke Adamson
Producer: Jen Sullivan
Booking Until: 14 November 2015
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: www.ticketsource.co.uk/thehopetheatre