Review: The Other Place, Park Theatre - finding truth in imagined memories
Karen Archer's performance gives the impression of someone who has run off a cliff and is still running, her sarcasm and sharpness serving to emphasise her vulnerability in those moments she begins to realise she's falling.
If you believe it happened does that make it true?
Karen Archer plays Juliana, a scientist in pharmaceuticals who is trying to arrange a meeting with her estranged daughter and divorcing her philandering husband Ian (Neil McCaul).
She also can't understand why there is a woman in a yellow bikini in the audience at her presentation.
Convinced she has brain cancer
These are Juliana's narratives, her reality, her history and memories. But her reality is also that after 'an episode' she is convinced she has brain cancer and won't hear her doctors say otherwise.
The Other Place is a play about dementia which reminded me a little of the 2014 film Still Alice for which Julianne Moore won an Oscar. Both show cognitive degeneration through the eyes of the sufferer.
Blurring of memories and heart's desire
Having Eliza Collings and Rupinder Nagra play characters from Juliana's past and present adds to the sense of confusion, the blurring of recollections and heart's desire.
There is also a blurring between Juliana's true self and what is a symptom of her illness; she is a sharply intelligent woman but also cutting in her manner.
It would be easy to dismiss her as an unreliable narrator but there is a truth in the mixture of flashbacks, conversations and encounters with doctors, family and strangers.
Pain and regrets paint a truth
There is also a personal truth in the pain, regret and guilt the narratives paint.
The unravelling of past events is where the emotional weight and dramatic tension lie leaving what is an unsentimental portrayal of dementia.
Archer's performance gives the impression of someone who has run off a cliff and is still running, her sarcasm and sharpness serving to emphasise her vulnerability in those moments she begins to realise she's falling.
I'm giving The Other Place ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and it is 80 minutes long without an interval. See it at Park Theatre until October 20.
The Park Theatre is offering dementia friendly performances and a free theatre-based course for dementia sufferers and their carers called the Reminiscence Project. For details check out the website.
Some more you might like to read:
London Fringe: The Sword of Alex, White Bear - power and violence overshadow identity debate.
West End: Foxfinder, Ambassadors Theatre - signs and symbols but lacking in thrills.
From the archive - Is Mark Rylance to say actors are to blame for noisy audiences?