Harry lives in a shadowy borderland, a liminal shoreline where the past laps the present.
His memories ebb and flow, surging to unmoor him from his present as his carer, May tries to settle him into his new “home”. Harry wrestles with dementia and May struggles in communicating with him in sign language; they are both out of their depth. It’s going to “take a little bit of time, that’s all” opines the determined and compassionate May, but time is a fluid thing.
May uses the touchstones of Harry’s wife and his seeming fondness for a beach to connect with him, but while thinking it must be hard for him to remember, it’s anything but. His past is very present as he reflects on pieces of his fragmenting memory, and the shore, always just out of reach, brings both solace and sadness.
We share visions of Harry’s younger self, wooing his beautiful wife at dinner in a scene with the diners and table revolving in a whirlwind romance that would befit a dreamy musical. But Harry is bewitched, bothered and bewildered, finding himself frustratingly back in the present and growing jealous of his earlier self and increasingly angry.
There is an almost insidious progression from outerwear to pyjamas, confining him within his declining memory that sees him lost, heartbreakingly inconsolable and battling to communicate.
This ambitious production is premiered as part of the Manipulate Festival, which seeks to showcase visually led work that pushes boundaries, plays with form, and challenges perceptions. It’s immediately striking with a set backed by moveable mirrored screens which reflect the present, become transparent windows to the past or allow the two to merge. This allows the audience to see into the hinterland of Harry’s memories and for him to interact with them.
It's a bit of a slow burn and, while the plot is not complex, the audience shares to some degree the sense of confusion arising from the lack of communication. There is some similarity to Theatre Ad Infinitum’s wordless “Translunar Paradise”, but with a unique focus and insight on dementia and the Deaf community.
It's not just smoke and mirrors, aside from the creative visuals the beautiful performances and elegant score provides something that is passionate, powerful, and poignant.
Tickets: £15 (£13).
Suitability: 12+. Note – performance contains emotional themes, loud noises, and vibrations.