Greenwich Theatre, London – until 17 March 2018
Luke Adamson’s play about Alzheimer’s Disease misses the emotional mark with stilted dialogue and misunderstanding at where the true tragedy of the disease lies.
Alice (Amanda Reed) is forgetting with alarming frequency, from not remembering where the photograph album is to forgetting the doctor’s appointment she has just had. Her daughter Mandy (Julie Binysh) assumes it is just old age, plus she has her own distractions; separated from her husband, dealing with the grief of losing her father, George, two months before as well as her responsibilities to her adult children.
Reed and Binysh have excellent chemistry, their last scene together is particularly moving with Binysh portraying a woman with a lot on her plate, who cares out of love, not the duty of being her child, but they have been let down by dialogue which is so naturalistic that it verges on to boring.
The main problem I had with the play is that it isn’t sure what it wants to say; is it raising awareness? From my limited knowledge of Alzheimer’s, I learnt nothing new. Is it a story about the change people face when they have Alzheimer’s and the frustrations and battles their loved ones face?
At times, it was but this story lacks a beginning and end as we see Alice at the stage of diagnosis. There is so much to explore: did George simply have a heart attack or was he taking on unseen caring responsibilities as Alice got more and more confused. We have no idea what she was like before (the glimpses of her intelligence, stubbornness and cheekiness are too few and Mandy’s character never gives us any indication of what her mother was like) and the real tragedy from Alzheimer’s; seeing someone you love change beyond recognition and not being able to communicate their feelings.
The character of Georgette is a real misfire, a performance by Julia Faulkner of an irritating and unnecessary character, who is comic relief or an expert on Alzheimer’s depending on what is required. I feel for Faulkner because she’s given a wordy part with little depth, her good actions coming from guilt don’t redeem her to the audience and perhaps not even the characters she is interacting with. She sums up my main issue with this play-it feels rushed and overwhelmed with ideas, rather than a strong storyline.
I am disappointed with Adamson and the Alzheimer’s Society, which has supported this play, both have experienced Alzheimer’s from different points of view but Adamson’s focus has been completely missed, in the programme Adamson’s eulogy to his grandfather (who passed away in 2017) a vivacious, inquisitive man whose decline must have been painful to all and if Adamson had moved the story further along, provided more of that background then this would be a moving story instead we get this undeveloped tale that doesn’t even have the heart to become melodrama.
The fact that Alice has even the awareness that she should see a doctor is at odds with the glimpses of stubbornness we have seen earlier. Alzheimer’s is such a complicated, painful experience and this play doesn’t even touch the surface of that.