In Other Words
The Hope Theatre
Opening Night – 2nd March 2017
“Apple. Labrador. Grass.
This is one impressive play you will never forget”
We first meet Jane and Arthur, the two characters in this one act debut play from Matthew Seager, upon entering the theatre. They are seemingly a care free couple enjoying some time together in their living room. As the audience settles, there’s a dramatic change, Arthur suddenly slumps into his chair, his body twisted and his speech incoherent …
In Other Words follows the couple’s journey from ‘the incident’ of how they met to the tragic situation they now find themselves in. This is a story about dementia and unconditional love.
The duo playing the couple, Celeste Dodwell and Matthew Seager are both young actors. At times, without tuning in to fleeting references or referring to the programme, it’s not always clear what period of time has elapsed and indeed how old the characters are. This comes across as a deliberate ploy to make you think and to raise awareness that this cruel disease itself, takes little notice of age.
The scenes flit, via white noise, muffled words and flickering lights, between Arthur being his usual cheery self, and each of the progressive stages of his illness.
At times humorous, with Arthur’s early forgetfulness jokingly brushed aside as male stupidity, the laughs slowly become fewer. We are taken on Arthur’s tear jerking one way trip through doctor’s appointments, diagnosis and prognosis, to the hollow shell of a man he becomes.
“It feels like he is leaving me”, Jane says as she struggles to cope with Arthur’s increasingly challenging behaviour. Yet despite the extreme pressure she is under, only once do we see her snap, an action she instantly regrets. This is a man she still dearly loves even though to him, she is a stranger.
By the final scene, the only thing left that invokes any semblance of the old Arthur is the sound of hearing ‘their song’ Fly me to the Moon. That one enduring link to the moment they met, ‘now being all that is left from a lifetime of memories.
For such a moving piece, at times needing total quiet to portray the raw emotion from the actors, The Hope has a few issues. There was a lot of noise from downstairs and being on a main road, the occasional siren or hooting of horns interrupts the moment. Not a lot that can be done about this as it is a pub theatre in a busy location, but this was my one and only issue with the performance.
Both characters are truly believable, a credit to the actors involved, and director Paul Brotherton. Matthew Seager captures every subtle detail of Arthur’s spiralling decline to perfection. You’ll want to rush out and hug Jane, so convincing is Celeste Dodwell’s harrowing performance.
This is an incredibly well structured work. Seager’s research into the condition and his facilitation of sensory workshops in a dementia care home (which showed him how music can build links to reality), have enabled him to make this a terrifyingly accurate picture of an illness affecting so many.
This is one impressive play you will never forget.
In Other Words
by Matthew Seager
is on at The Hope Theatre until 18th March
Production photography by Alex Fine
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