Amy Donnelly, played by Katharine Moraz, is a lively and successful author. Then (think of Iris Murdoch and Terry Pratchett) she begins to become occasionally and uncharacteristically incoherent and forgetful. The devastating diagnosis is Alzheimer’s and the piece tracks her gradual deterioration although it isn’t presented chronologically. Wilkinson, who based this fine and perceptive one hour play on two true stories in his own life, is particularly interested in grief and its effects although he explores it with flashes of humour.
The Kings Head Theatre is a small venue at the back of a pub and the intimacy of its playing space works very well here. There’s a lot of very natural, unforced and totally convincing acting, thoughtfully directed by David Macintosh Lougmair. It’s a simple story played out by an accomplished cast of seven with few props and two chairs for a set. There are no gimmicks.
Alastair Kirton is moving as Amy’s husband, Charlie and Jamie Scott-Smith creates an anguished teenage son at various stages of Amy’s illness. Juliet Knight is calm, warm but unsmiling as Ursula, the doctor and is adept at focusing dramatic attention by listening, really listening. But the best work comes from Moraz. She takes her character from cheerful confidence to confused anxiety without the slightest hint of histrionics. She conveys feelings very effectively with facial expression and body shifts and when she smiles because, for a moment the mist has cleared, it’s like the sun coming out.
I have a slight reservation about the flashbacks in this piece because after the opening scene with Kirton at Amy’s grave, it sometimes isn’t initially clear – for the first half hour or so - where we are in the chronology. But that’s a minor gripe about an impressive little piece which was enabled by crowdfunding and presented in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society as part of the King’s Head Theatre’s Festival45.