Hope Theatre, London – until 18 March 2017
Guest reviewer: Sarah Tinsley
In Other Words – A lifetime of love and loss is condensed into this touching play about the pain and confusion of losing yourself, and those around you, to Alzheimer’s.
It’s a familiar setup – boy bumps into girl at social event, they look back on it and feel like it was their destiny. Jane and Arthur are a couple very much in love. But with the added twist that they step out of their story, and give the audience a commentary of how they were feeling at that time. In other words – what it meant to them. Not only does it break up the scenes, which at times are pretty intense, it allows the audience a deeper level of understanding with the characters, meaning we feel more involved in their relationship and their feelings. It’s a clever device that really packs a punch, considering it’s only a short play.
Like many couples, Jane and Artur have ‘their song.’ Music that played the first time they met, and defined them throughout their relationship. But there are difficult times ahead as Arthur begins to notice changes in himself and it gets harder to keep them from Jane. Soon, they are both faced with a heartbreaking diagnosis and the prospect of a very different life ahead. Despite their physical closeness, Arthur drifts away from Jane. A series of heartbreaking scenes that left many of the audience emotional follow. Yet the power of the music is still there, and we see that it is possible, even for a moment, for Arthur to return to Jane.
Both actors did a stunning job. Matthew Seager, also the writer, spent time in a dementia care home, which is clear from his acting. His psychical and verbal changes as the play progresses are powerful and convincing. The sense of fear especially, the bewilderment he feels when he does not recognise the world around him. Celeste Dodwell gives a truly impressive performance, it feels as though the true tragedy lies with her, as the man she loves slips away from her. Over a period of time she is reduced from wife to carer. Her emotional performance didn’t feel overplayed, and there was genuine chemistry between the two of them.
The only element that failed to convince was the era it was set in. From the music and setting, we can assume that they are supposed to have met in the pre-war era, but the way they interacted and the language used, felt far too modern. Perhaps shifting the turns of phrase might have felt a little affected, but it didn’t capture the history of the context. Although it did beautifully capture the history of the couple.
An emotional, important play about relationships and how they are affected by Alzheimer’s. Take tissues!