Edinburgh Fringe 2018
All Change is a new bittersweet comedy about growing old. Ivor appears physically robust, but somehow fragile; not unhappy, yet not quite there, the world inside his brain a psychedelic mixture of the present and the past. But today, daughter Lily visits with news of her own…
The Fringe programme states:
‘Ivor appears physically robust, but somehow fragile; not unhappy, yet not quite there, the world inside his brain a psychedelic mixture of the present and the past. But today, daughter Lily is there to pack a suitcase for the inevitable moment when Ivor moves into a “home”. As fast as Lily packs, Ivor unpacks, and so the game begins…’
In reality the play doesn’t deliver that, but it is a new script and that’s probably where the writer started but has moved on. In fact, Lily is visiting Ivor and we travel through a series of misunderstandings, memories and flashbacks as a different but equally powerful story emerges.
All Change began life as a devised project, inspired by the work of St Wilfrid’s Hospice, workshopped with drama students and scripted by Toby H Marriott, an emerging writer at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. The writing is layered and nuanced creating a very naturalistic world in which misunderstandings abound. It is threaded through with verbal games that Ivor and Lilly have shared through their lives and recurring motifs such as Ivor dislike of modern communication by text and emally (that’s the closest I could manage!).
The set is Ivor’s sitting room where he clearly spends much of his time with his model trains – the play is augmented by black and white film footage of trains in the 1950s and 60s. The director has makes good use of the constraints of the limited space in The Box by using the fire exit as an entrance and the entrance as an off stage kitchen.
Ivor played by Tim Marriott is both frail an robust – moving a little slower than formerly and becoming forgetful and confused whilst still physically strong and able. And knows that things aren’t quite right and is distressed by it. He creates a character who is clearly vulnerable as well as likeable, and occasionally childlike. There are also moments of flashback to earlier times and Marriott makes the switches seamlessly becoming very clearly his own younger self.
Lily (Stefanie Rossi) provides a perfect foil to Ivor, with a sensitive and subtle performance as she attempts to reason with him as well as the times when she goes along with his fantasy provide a dynamic that we all recognised.
The two work well together with pitch perfect timing of their overlapping awkward but affectionate exchanges: the overlapping, the misunderstandings, the answering the question before last – all familiar to anyone who lived through the mental deterioration of dementia, the attempts to reason, the going along with the story only to be challenged ‘what are you doing talking to a crate?’. They create a genuine sense of this close father/daughter relationship.
The black and white film of trains provides the backdrop to scene changes and trains and are clearly important to Ivor, but they don’t advance the story. There are also some loose ends and the play would be strengthened by expanding on Lily’s story and the impact of the news she brings on her father.
It is an excellent play in both the writing and performances. Beyond the Fringe constraints of 60-70 minutes is the opportunity to extend and expand the work in ways that will deepen it and create a piece that will fit studio theatre programming.