Edinburgh Fringe 2022
A one-man play that deals with the struggles surrounding early onset dementia. It’s an intimate and emotionally honest piece where the character resists his encroaching illness while conveying the effect it has on the people around him.
“Life is like sand, running through your fingers…”
Banana. Crabtree. Simon. These are the three words that Alan’s GP has instructed him to remember. His wife, Emily is concerned that Alan keeps switching off the wrong light in the hall and can’t quite remember things the way he used to. Alan shrugs it off. After all he is only fifty years old, good at pub quizzes and can recite all the winners of the FA Cup Final since 1923.
It’s those small memory lapses; those ‘on the tip of the tongue’ moments that begin to concern Alan. He ends up googling early onset dementia and the edges of fear creep up on him as he is confronted with his inevitable decline. It is chilling wake up call for all of us over fifty. Who hasn’t lost their keys, their wallets and struggled to recall a name?
The setting is simple – just an armchair with a side table. Each stage of the disease’s progression is marked by a jazz interlude as we share Alan’s growing unease as he wages an inner battle between denial and realisation. A drum roll accentuates his bewildering predicament as he looks at family photographs, does a jigsaw puzzle, eats a banana; all ‘normal’ activities camouflaging a growing inner panic of rage and grief. Was it his sister or his grand-daughter that he was talking about? Why are people stealing from him? Who is the strange woman who calls herself his wife?
De Mooi handles the harrowing progression of the disease with control and poise; his masterful use of silence and pause allows space for the audience to digest each new experience with palpable compassion. The direction by Dan Phillips is tight and efficient allowing De Mooi room to breathe and find some moving moments of poignancy and pathos.
The play, written by David Hendon, who is a twice finalist for The Kenneth Branagh New Drama Writing Award, is never mawkish and tells Alan’s story with a simple integrity. This is finely-tuned, compelling theatre which delivers an honest perspective on an important topic which touches so many of us either directly or indirectly.