Reviewed – 14th June 2018
“Ultimately, though, I was gripped on every level; transported, whilst being very aware of the presentness and relevance of the issues being discussed”
Louise Coulthard’s tender, funny and eloquent play has all the theatrical ingredients for something uniquely beautiful. Written and performed by Coulthard, Cockamamy is awesomely executed by its vibrantly talented cast of three, and achieves a level of realism heightened by the closeness of the space, and brought home
by the emotive subject matter.
Cockamamy is full of wit, and fleshes out its characters from the opening scene. As Alice, Mary Rutherford performs with such detail and skill that the audience is invited right into her world of grief, confusion and gradual loss of control. Alice’s descent into Alzheimer’s is all the more tragic, because the play begins with her as a modern, healthy, cool grandmother. Expertly paced and realized, Rebecca Loudon’s direction coaxes out so many beautiful images and moments between Rosie and Alice. Equal to them being grandmother and granddaughter, they are friends, and it was a joy to see an intergenerational female relationship portrayed in all its complexity on stage.
Rowan Polonski shines as the patient, supportive Cavan. The chemistry between Polonski and Coulthard is unmistakable: the contrast between their new passion, and Alice reliving the memory of her dead husband, is nuanced, well-balanced and truly novel. Rosie’s restlessness to escape the life of being a carer, whilst feeling intensely guilty for wanting to leaving someone who has also acted as a mother for her, is subtly, yet masterfully, played out.
Cockamamy continually entangles humour with poignancy. When it rises to its peak, in a final scene which takes the audience through every inch of tension and release, the result is truthful and tightly-wrought drama of the best kind. Frequently, Jacob Welsh’s sound design was a strong support for portraying the recession of Alice’s mental state. A wartime song is Alice’s theme which provokes her past. She sees ghosts, relives an air-raid, and – in a neat bit of doubling – sees her husband, played by Cavan in uniform – come into the living room and eat a bourbon biscuit. These elements of Cockamamy deepened it further, and clever changes of perspective between Rosie and Alice made sure that our emotional position was always in flux.
Chris May’s lighting design helps create an abstract tone in a naturalistic space. The choice to leave the stage bare for most scene changes was occasionally very effective, but more events in the sound and lighting cues would have made these seem artistically intentional. Elle Loudon’s design was a perfect creation of intimacy and warmth in the Hope’s black box, and Rebecca Loudon’s direction, supported by Oliver de Rohan, fit perfectly in thrust, with only occasional sight line problems when two characters conversed on the sofa at a time.
Ultimately, though, I was gripped on every level; transported, whilst being very aware of the presentness and relevance of the issues being discussed. A play about love, family, and what it means to be of sound mind, Cockamamy must be seen, shared, and talked about with those you love.
Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton
Photography by Alex Brenner
Hope Theatre until 30th June
Previously reviewed at this venue