Adelaide Fringe 2011
Through a poetic discourse, the truth about people’s experience of dementia – as a sufferer, relative or carer – is given a stirring and evocative voice by the youth theatre company.
The theatre is freezing. A snowy, wind-savaged, mountain scape straddles the stage. The sound of stripped wind whips above and through us. A 1950s well-dressed woman appears, lost and alone. Yet not silenced. She voices what it feels like to be in and out of remembering – a veil also like a mirror.
And so the metaphoric link is established by and through this character who weaves our encounter with six sets of dementia experiences – from the point of view of the sufferer, their partners, children and grandchildren as well as carer – and as a result of stroke, coma and Alzheimer’s.
This ensemble of young actors delivered these stories of real people (some of whom were in the audience) with the utmost respect, dignity and commitment to getting it right. They were extremely effective as the ‘Greek chorus’ of remembrance – bubbling, cascading, rushing, whirlpooling, tidal waving in, out and around the veil’s mesh. The cast’s delivery was generally tight, connected and consistently in service of the story. There were opportunities for individual cast members to shine. A couple managed to, notably the charisma and chemistry evidenced by the characters Hans and his partner.
Described as ‘cross artform’ in the Guide (within the ‘theatre’ section), it is still a drama performance and there were a number of times where we ought to have been shown rather than told. It felt that not enough faith was placed in the actors and their performances, suggesting that they weren’t able to carry off the emotion or life experience required for particular sequences. The audience would have benefited much more from the ‘lived’ as opposed to ‘related’ experience in those instances where the piece was told rather than performed
The poetic discourse was well constructed by the projected backdrop images, white terrain (stage and props) and there was a skilful use of sound in conjunction with the verse and chorus construction of the theatrical performance itself.
The writer, Sean Riley, describes this as a “poem for voices that transcends age and experience”. Also A Mirror achieves this and the adoption of the poetic form is perfect for translating and evoking the internal experience of sufferers. However when it is not the sufferer it appropriately adopts a more traditional story telling mode. .