‘You’re allowed to forget…‘
Intimacy is something which the Hope Theatre always does well. This 50-seat venue was built for it. in other words adds a level of intimacy which I was yet to experience at this theatre. Provoking in its staging and personal in its portrayal, Off the Middle‘s show explores Alzheimer’s and those it affects.
Since the first night in that pub, Jane and Arthur knew they were meant to be together (or at least Arthur knew!) But as time goes by, these memories start to fade for both Arthur begins to recognise Jane less and less, and Jane who begins to recognise her husband less and less. Exploring the power of memory and music, it’s a story which stays with you.
Matthew Seager’s narrative plays a risky game: opening in the present with Arthur’s Alzheimer’s at its worst, this could seem like a caricature with the young Seager himself playing the ailing Arthur. With careful crafting by Seager though, we see how the condition develops as we rewind to follow the development of his condition, from ‘the incident’ to where we are now. Crucially, we see not just the effect of Arthur’s Alzheimer’s on himself, but also his wife Jane through parts which speak directly to the audience. This is not a morbid exploitation of the condition; it is a moving portrayal of this couple’s experience.
With just two armchairs and a light, Will Alder and Iida Ainos’ staging brings the audience into the home and mind of Arthur. Moments of internal struggle are externalised, with the light and sound recreating just how Alzheimer’s affects Arthur. It’s a simple device, but one which is executed brilliantly thanks to Paul Brotherston’s direction.
In this two hander, Seager and Celeste Dodwell portray the perfect couple: warm and welcoming, you can’t help but be drawn in to their stories. The deterioration of Arthur is handled sensitively and Seager’s portrayal is brutally honest, sharing with us all aspects of the condition. Dodwell plays the dutiful Jane, in an emotionally draining role. The emotion which she can convey in a look or a even a tilt of the head is captivating.
A moving and masterful production with Sinatra, ‘sorrys’ and a story which will stay with you. In other words, go see this now!