Monday, February 15, 2016
Windmills of your mind: The Memory Show @DraytonArmsSW5
The transformation of a mother daughter relationship as a daughter becomes a carer is at the heart of The Memory Show.
It's a new musical with book and lyrics by Sara Cooper and music by Zach Redler. It is having its European premiere at the Drayton Arms Theatre in South Kensington, for a very brief period.
Alzheimer's has inspired many creative works. From the book and film Still Alice and the recently produced play The Father. Here the same story is told, but with music. And it gives the piece a heightened sense of reality and emotion. And the natural performances from the two leads ground the piece and have you transfixed watching their journey.
Ruth Redman as "mother" opens the show. She sings about being asked stupid questions by doctors such as "who is the president of the United States?" But it is clear that she doesn't know the answer to it and her world is unravelling.
Her daughter, played by Carolyn Maitland, returns home to care for her. She is single, having let relationships pass her by. And she has had a turbulent relationship with her mother.
But past wrongs and lost opportunities give way as both characters have to face their vulnerabilities.
The production is simple, with some inspired lighting and projections by designer Will Monks to evoke the breakdown of the mind.
The songs are carefully placed in this piece. They come naturally to express the emotions and the anxieties each character faces. At times, the music and its New York Jewish-ness could have you forgiven for thinking it was a Jason Robert Brown show. But the originality of the concept, including songs about cleaning up toilets after your mother, gives the piece its strength.
In the show programme there is an advertisement for the Alzheimer's Society. It notes there are over 100 different forms of dementia and that by 2020 the number of people living with it is expected to be over 1 million. This show gives it another human face.
A fine production from New Bard Prodcutions and Verse Unbound. Directed by Alex Howarth and musical director Jerome Van Den Berghe. I look forward to seeing what they do next...
The Memory Show runs at the Drayton Arms theatre to 20 February.