Greenwich Theatre, London – until 17 March 2018
A delicate dance around the emotive subject of Alzheimer’s, Luke Adamson’s One Last Waltz returns to London to the intimate studio space at Greenwich Theatre where it pulls no punches in exploring what this disease can do to even the closest of families, while somehow still maintaining a lightness of spirit that could match the Illuminations.
Alice is at that point in life where her friends keep dying, even the ones younger than her, and now her husband has passed there’s no hiding the fact that she keeps forgetting things. A trawl through some old family photos inspires her adult daughter Mandy to re-create a favourite holiday to Blackpool, but not even the promise of the Tower ballroom can disguise her decline.
Writing for three older women (hotel manager Georgette makes up the trio), Adamson gives full rein to an undoubted gift for character. Scathing humour, bluff directness and an innate desire to empathise rounds all three out beautifully, as underwear is forgotten, grapefruit searched for, wine drunk and secrets spilt.
And underscoring that humour is a frank recognition of the frustrations and terror that comes with dealing with dementia, or even the very idea of it. Her introduction may feel like it comes right out of Crossroads, but Julia Faulkner’s Georgette with her hard-earned experience proves a much-needed shoulder for Julie Binysh’s eloquent struggles as daughter Mandy.
Amanda Reed excels as Alice, capturing that perplexing but all-too-true-to-life mix of absolute recall of some, seemingly insignificant things but unable to remember that afternoon’s trip to the doctors. And her sense of wonder at even the opportunity to once again put on her dancing shoes feels like a beautiful tribute to a generation soon to pass entirely. Recommended.