“After months of being deprived of collective experiences, Take Off Your Cornflakes is an unvarnished, quintessentially theatrical sharing of the drama of our own humanity.” Those were the words of critic Barbara Lewis on seeing the recent UK premiere of Mark Lockyer’s critically-acclaimed adaptation of Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan’s play at the White Bear Theatre. Following a successful run at the venue, the show now transfers to St Margaret’s House in London’s Bethnal Green for a short season from 6-9 July 2021.
Writer and actor Lockyer (known for his notable roles at the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Old Vic, Young Vic and Royal Court) has been overwhelmed by the positive response to the play which examines the impact of dementia on a relationship between a married couple, Tom and Trish. In addition to a whole bunch of four and five-star reviews, both Lockyer and director Michael Kingsbury have been nominated for Off-West End Awards for Lead Performance and Director (Plays).
With the location of Take Off Your Cornflakes moved to North London rather than the Dublin of Henderson and Nolan’s original, Lockyer’s moving adaptation of this absurdly normal story poignantly asks us: How do we keep dancing when the music between us starts to fade?
Tom and Trish are a working class couple with no airs or graces. Tom loves the buses and Trish is a mother of two and a housewife. They both love dancing and Tom loves his shed. They are simple, loving people and are devoted to one another. When Tom is diagnosed with early on-set dementia at only 53, life changes dramatically for both husband and wife as they navigate the unpredictable years they have left together.
You can check out all the rave reviews below but here’s just a couple of the comments:
“Lockyer delivers an outstanding performance as husband and wife Tom and Trish” – Elaine Chapman, Theatre, Films and Art reviews, My Theatre Mates
“The last word really must go to Lockyer, who gives an astounding performance… We invest in these two characters entirely because of Lockyer’s performance and I think the play is a remarkable tracking of the devastating effect of Alzheimer’s on sufferers and the people who love them” – Órla Quilligan, A Younger Theatre
“It conveys the very normalness of Trish and Tom and it gives us the collective laughter that has been absent in lockdown” – Barbara Lewis, londongrip
In conversation with Mary Condon O’Connor, Lockyer explains what impact the play had on him when he first saw it in Ireland: “I was absolutely gripped and wanted to bring it to the UK immediately. At the time, I had a relative with dementia and the whole family was struggling with its consequences.
“Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia are part of many families now. It’s a story that needs to be told. The strength of the play is that it sees both sides of a complex issue with humour and sadness, always delicately balanced.
“When Tom is diagnosed with dementia, the balance of their relationship shifts as Trish becomes a carer. The conflict in Trish between loving her husband and having to witness his deterioration is painful and causes a natural resentment that she is losing Tom to the illness. In my adaptation, I really wanted to highlight Trish’s pain and dilemma. I saw that conflict in my own family. Being a carer to someone you love is visceral and painful. The play’s strength is that it shines a light on those difficult feelings. That’s important and honest. However, the counterbalance is that Tom never loses his sense of humour. He is, for the most part, engaging and very amusing.”
Humour plays an important role in the telling of Tom and Trish’s story, so how did Lockyer incorporate humour into the play?
“Anyone with experience of dementia in the family will tell you that there is sadness and humour. You have to find the humour because even the most tragic things can be funny. Humour is an important safety valve and it’s crucial to find humour in a play. After all, it is a piece of entertainment. As a writer, it’s about being sensitive to what each moment of the story requires.”
Searingly funny without a hint of self-pity, this visceral play about a subject that touches us all smashes through the boundaries of what it means to care and how we truly love. As The Spectator’s Lloyd Evans writes: “Lockyer conveys the horror of Tom’s predicament but he stays in touch with his humour, defiance and courage.”
In the podcast below have a listen to Lockyer chatting about the creative process behind Take Off Your Cornflakes and the enthusiastic responses from audience members. Lockyer also explains all you need to know about the measures being put in place to make St Margaret’s Covid safe.
Take Off Your Cornflakes runs at Mulberry Hall at St Margaret’s House, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green from 6-9 July 2021. Performances are 7.30-9pm and tickets are priced £10/£15.