One Last Waltz
Reviewed – 10th March 2018
“The actors’ energy is going into the objects, rather than each other and as a results it sucks out the intimacy”
Luke Adamson’s play about Alzheimer’s and old age, One Last Waltz returns to the Greenwich Studio Theatre. Mandy takes her mother Alice on a trip to Blackpool for one last dance in the Tower Ballroom – but Alice finds things have changed beyond recognition triggering a frightening realisation.
This has the makings of a great show. The script is both heartfelt and humorous, the characters well drawn and the cast are spirited. But it falls down thanks to one thing; there is simply too much stuff on the stage. The cast are way laden with things, each scene having a multitude of costume changes and props to show off. While in a show with a bigger budget, this attention to detail would be admirable, in a stripped back studio space it’s fatal. It affects the pace that too often drags and worse still comes to uncomfortable pauses. Every scene change, every action depends on positioning the props before the emotional beats. It’s pre-emptive and it’s just not necessary with a cast this talented. Most damningly they get in the way of the most important element of the play – the character relationships. The actors’ energy is going into the objects, rather than each other and as a results it sucks out the intimacy, undermining some of the key moments of the play.
I’ve seen plays where this is a bigger problem before, but none where it has left me so frustrated. Because this should be a brilliant review. This is a gentle, loving story with both genuine feeling and a message that is incredibly relevant. While occasionally drifting into exposition, on the whole the script is well plotted and nicely crafted to find the humanity and positivity in what could be a terrifying reality. The performers are all excellent. Amanda Reed’s Alice is charming, giving the character real strength even in the moments where her memory starts to play tricks. Julia Faulkner’s Georgette is a buzzing comic antidote, never allowing the play to dwell too long in its own sobriety and Julie Binysh’s devoted Mandy anchors the piece with her down to earth, pragmatic optimism as she deals with both the loss of her father and the decline of her mother. But too often the direction gets in their way, and as a result the relationships feel unearned. In the confrontation on Blackpool beach, I knew what I should feel but it did not hit home.
This is not a bad night at the theatre by any means. But it is annoying when you see how much better it could be. This is a beautiful piece – it just needs to trust its performers and literally get out of its own way.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
One Last Waltz
Greenwich Theatre until 17th March