Rarely have I been so moved in the theatre as by Luke Adamson’s Alzheimer’s play. And the reason – as anyone who reads my weekly blogs about my husband’s illness (at http://susanelkin.co.uk/articles/category/life/alzheimers-blog) will know is that the subject matter of this 80-minute piece comes very close indeed to home. Like, Adamson’s character Mandy (Julie Binysh), I am dealing with this in a dearly loved one on a daily basis. And I can assure you that the play, written as a tribute to Adamson’s late grandfather, gets it one hundred percent right.
Amanda Reed, as recently widowed Alice, is becoming forgetful. She can’t find the photograph albums she’s looking for and often can’t remember the day of the week or whether or not something has happened or is about to happen. Reed creates a very plausible character: sometimes worrying, often still brisk and for a long time she insists that there’s nothing wrong with her.
The thrust of the plot takes Alice and Mandy to Blackpool for a weekend so that Alice can dance in the Tower ballroom once more. Of course it doesn’t quite work out like that as we see Alice getting confused, lost, anxious, querulous – but sometimes bouncing back to normal.
Julie Binysh’s acting is beautifully natural and totally convincing in the intimate, quasi-televisual space of Greenwich Theatre’s studio. She gets angry, she weeps and she succumbs to an anaesthetising glass or two after her mother is in bed. Mostly, her character is patient and kind. Binysh finds a deeply truthful balance.
And there’s a fine performance from Julia Faulkner as the third member of the cast. She plays the hotel receptionist/manager in a faded Fawlty Towers-like establishment, speaking in a tortured attempt at distorted RP. It’s immaculately observed and her excruciating self conscious mis-pronounciation of croissant is a delightful touch. Then, as she gradually unbends she reveals a character of real anguish with a very sad – relevant – story of her own.
I enjoyed this play very much. And the ending is almost unbearably poignant – I’m sure I wasn’t the only audience member in tears. It’s strong drama (well directed by playwright, Luke Adamson) with a simple but imaginative set mostly based on piles of cardboard boxes and strings of lights. I admire its overt agenda too. Adamson’s passion – as he said in the Q/A which followed the performance – is to get Alzheimer’s talked about openly as cancer now is. With that in mind, I hope he manages to get his excellent One Last Waltz touring again very soon.