Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“A major international co-production, Tomorrow is a profound, stunningly original meditation on needing care and needing to care. A young man suddenly finds himself in an alarmingly unfamiliar place, where everyone has his best interests at heart but he is not allowed to leave.”
A man, stooped so far over he feels liable to snap at any moment, wanders onto a darkly lit bare stage, a visual echo of the Fool in King Lear. And this indeed is “a night [that] pities neither wise man nor fool.” Vanishing Point’s latest play, Tomorrow, is a visceral examination of dementia, of the carers and the cared for. With dementia cases expected to triple by a third by 2050, this a is a tomorrow that waits in one form or another – as carer or cared for – for most of us.
Tomorrow may be all our tomorrows, but it is full to bursting with yesterdays. George, the stooped man, alone on the stage, is joined by a young man holding a bunch of flowers, late to visit his wife and their new-born daughter, Clare. Initially, the young man tries to help the older, but eventually the old man ram-charges the young, so that the two cobbled together lurch round the stage like some modern day centaur, half man, half beast: both are George at different stages of his life – he has met himself coming back.
Director, Matthew Lenton’s clever conception aligns form with content. Initially, George and his younger doppelganger, provide us with one story that we realise as the play goes on is the product of George’s confused mind. In moving inverse symmetry, the young man is not late for the hospital; rather he is trapped inside the elder’s head, eternally late, his wife long since dead and his daughter Clare, the one who is visiting him. Our own initial confusion echoes the characters’, then we step outside and watch care home residents and workers as observers with increased empathy drawn from our shared experience of disorientation.
The characters lovingly create and caress their own masks which are later roughly forced on by care home workers. “Everyone you have ever known is in there. Be calm”, they coo as they struggle to mask the other. Suddenly the oft trotted out cliches we use to soothe seem instruments of torture. The use of masks is powerful, dividing them from others and constricting them inside themselves, They remind us of how too often we diminish old people simply to their present state, and see little of the complex and multi-faceted person that lies behind the mask.
The production veers between set piece tableaux and narrative in a way that sometimes occasionally jolts and seems more a product of its devised construction than a finished production. Nonetheless, the unsettling nature of trying to find meaning in an increasingly disjointed world move us powerfully in the characters’ space. Nurses, with the unenviable task of caring, find ways of coping, detached from those they care for by games and banter, stark banality against the residents’ infantility. Strong winds howl, children wander unnoticed around the characters, a solitary ball bounces incessantly.
Kai Fischer’s lighting deserves a special mention. From early silhouettes and shadows, moving out of the darkness into the light to later stages of the play where actors’ torches from the stage range across the audience, a discomforting reminder that we are part of this scenario, the lighting is integral to the production.
Matthew Lenton’s ensemble of eight actors deliver a show that knocks you sideways – a show that comes with a hefty, emotional punch and leaves you with much to think about – and a disturbing vision of the tomorrow that awaits us all.