PLAQUES AND TANGLES
by Nicola Wilson.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 21 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 October.
Complex dramatisation showing the impact of a disintegrating mind.
There are many pointed moments in Nicola Wilson’s double time-zone play about the prospect for young Megan of developing early-onset Alzheimer’s, and of coping with the condition when she’s 48, along with consequences for family members.
Between a divided audience, the acting space has a large bed at one end, where casual (just) pre-marital sex leads Megan to marry the night’s partner instead of her intended fiancé, and at the other a huge staircase which figures real or imaginary descend.
Wilson starts, ironically for a piece with this subject, during a game of Scrabble, before both play and Lucy Morrison’s production create the chaos a mind that loses track of itself can experience and the tension between lucidity and isolation.
Characters appear from the sides through black curtains, as if from nowhere, objects are thrown at Megan, alone in the centre, creating a sense of chaotic disconnection. Monica Dolan is a perfect picture of middle-aged, middle-class appearance and manner, happy and secure among her family, living a quieter life than her younger self, played with energy and impulse by Rosalind Eleazar.
Her young Megan has to face the choice between tests to discover if she’s likely to develop early Alzheimer’s, or remaining with the hope and anxiety of uncertainty. Middle-aged Megan has to cope with the condition, catching the fury it brings when there’s enough sense of self to know the mind can’t be made to work properly.
In a kind of parallel, her last-minute husband Jez develops from Robert Lonsdale’s young joker, for whom nothing’s too serious, to Ferdy Roberts’ mature concern about the dilemma of a condition passed down the generations.
It’s complex to consider, let alone to witness or live through. The condition was movingly portrayed in Bryony Lavery’s A Wedding Story in 2000, and the impact of dementia was recently made vivid, implicating the audience in the growing confusions, in Florian Zeller’s The Father.
Wilson throws in every angle she can and sometimes simplicity might have landed a more direct hit. But Plaques remains a forceful, full-frontal account of devastation, with subtle understanding in its central performances.
Nurse/Gwen: Vanessa Babirye.
Eva/Barbara: Brid Brennan.
Megan: Monica Dolan.
Young Megan: Rosalind Eleazar.
Lila: Alice Felgate.
Young Jez: Robert Lonsdale.
Ned: Ted Reilly.
Jez: Ferdy Roberts.
Director: Lucy Morrison:
Designer: Andrew D Edwards.
Lighting: Anna Watson.
Sound: Emily Legg.
Composer: Daniel Elms.
Assistant director: Anastasia Osei-Kulfour.