IT may be a tiny theatre but when it comes to big issues, the Hope Theatre is not frightened to tackle them head on.
Just over a year ago, its production of In Other Words, written by Matthew Seager, received widespread acclaim for its tackling of the illness scourge of our time – dementia.
The theatre has now followed this up with an equally thought-provoking – and tear jerking – play about the same subject. Cockamamy is written by Louise Coulthard who like Seager did In Other Words also stars in the play.
Directed with astuteness by Rebecca Loudon, the play’s action all takes place in the confines of the front room of the home belonging to Alice, grandmother to Rosie (Coulthard) who has been living with her since mother Penny died.
It is a strong bond but over the course of the play’s 75 minutes it is tested to the full as Alice (played by the excellent Mary Rutherford) falls victim to dementia. To begin with, the decline is gentle but it soon takes grips as Alice gets family names wrong, forgets where she has put money that she has asked Rosie to take out from her building society, and hoards enough tins of spam to feed an army. She also hallucinates and sees her late husband Arthur dressed in his forces uniform. People brought in to help her – a cleaner – are given short shrift and for good measure a belt with her walking stick. Pizza is cooked – and burnt – at five in the morning.
As Alice’s ability to look after herself is compromised, Rosie falls in love with junior doctor Cavan (Rowan Polonski), a gentle giant of a man with an Irish lilt guaranteed to get the ladies turning to him for medical advice. He is compassionate to Alice – and passionate towards Rosie – but Alice’s illness begins to come between the lovers. It all culminates in a final scene which more than likely will bring you to tears.
Although tackling a difficult subject, Cockamamy is not without its dose of good humour – and exquisite writing. Alice and Rosie mischievously enjoying a tipple or three of 60 per cent proof rum. Alice watching TV quiz Countdown.
‘I would love to meet anyone who loves you,’ opines Alice quite tenderly when Rosie tells her she is seeing a man. Reminiscences of when Penny would call Rosie Pingu while combing her hair. Alice speaking via a health alarm system to a carer who complains that she must only phone if she is hurt.
The acting is sublime with Rutherford masterful as Alice. She literally shrivels – and ages – before our eyes with lines and bags appearing on her face. A stunning performance worthy of a bigger stage. Coulthard and Polonski are not far behind in the excellence stakes.
Music (Jacob Welsh) cleverly reinforces messages whether it is Alice’s eternal love for Arthur (I Only Have Eyes For You) or her being thrown back to childhood and the sound of air sirens.
Stirring, powerful and moving theatre. Best bring a handkerchief. In fact, make it two.
Cockamamy runs until June 30.