by Howard Coyer.
The London Theatre 443 New Cross Road SE14 6TA To 1 December 2012
Runs 1hr No Interval.
TICKETS: 0208 694 1888.
Review: William Russell 16 November.
Losing One’s Mind but keeping the attention.
The playing space in this tiny theatre is split in two. In one half an old woman is sitting in a room in a retirement home eating some cereal. She has a telephone by her side. She calls her son. He is sitting at his desk in his flat working on some papers. He answers, he listens. He is reassuring, she is anxious. She hangs up. She calls him again. He listens. She hangs up.
Howard Colyer’s play has two characters, 86-year old Mother (Jean Apps), and Vincent (Jonathan Benda), her middle-aged son, once a banker, now a book reviewer. Mother is suffering from dementia. Vincent is patience itself. She cannot recall what happened in her life with any certainty; he does, prompting her when she gets things wrong. He knows because she once told him. He is, he tells her, her memory.
Slowly we realise that Vincent is her second, less loved son, that she had a long but not particularly happy marriage and appears to have been fonder of her other, dead son. At one point she says – “I was good at listening.” “But not to me,” he replies.
Colyer’s play is a series of tiny scenes, each a phone call, and each call takes one just that little bit more deeply into the world of old age and fading memory. It gets a splendid performance from Jean Apps as Mother – she manages to create sudden flashes of the woman Mother once was perfectly, while Jonathan Benda gives sterling support. Director Scott Le Crass sustains interest in an essentially static situation.
A barrel of laughs it is not, but it is an engrossing piece of work and in the end Vincent does something unexpected.
Mother: Jean Apps.
Vincent: Jonathan Benda.
Director: Scott Le Crass.
Designer: Libby Todd.
Lighting: William Ingham.