A Shadow of Doubt

Gill Mcvey’s play focuses on the struggles of dealing with dementia and the sacrifices that are inevitably made. The play is a touching trip down a defenceless and deranged memory lane. Time Will Tell Theatre Company has created an authentic portrayal of dementia and its effects.

The play is a touching trip down a defenceless and deranged memory lane.

All three characters are conscious of how much they’ve lost. Chris Rawson – playing the Father – appears dependent on Sue Rawson – playing the Carer – who knows his morning routine of “tea and toast” better than he does. We question whether he truly has lost his “marbles”, only to find out the responsibility he had undertaken for his demented wife. The play embraces ambiguity, never asserting with certainty which family member suffers from the disease.

It also explores what it means to die with dignity. Mcvey plays the grief-stricken daughter whose lover died “out of the blue”; she embodies this subtly-depressive middle-aged woman with harrowing naturalism, without ever indulging in unnecessary exposition. Her playful desire for a Swiss-style end fuels the fire to come within the paternal relationship. Can anyone be happy in “their own distorted reality”? Can we truly know how another person feels, and consequently how they would like to be treated at their most vulnerable? The writing is well balanced, with the Carer taking a profound yet poorly explained stance against any such means of assisted-suicide, making the plot twist all the more unsettling.

I was left wondering how relief might emerge for those living in close-quarters with dementia. What might be the most painless means of dealing with such a corrosive disease? To its credit, the play refused to give a definitive, singular answer, so never spoon-feeding the audience. From the role reversal of dependency captured in a living room and Blackpool Beach as father and daughter search for one another, to an explosive eruption, the play deals with the intricacies of such relationships in a nuanced manner. The identities of all involved are left to crumble at the hands of the disease.

My one major objection to the play lies not with the exceptional acting or the engrossing script, but the clunky technical elements. The space and length of the play had potential for more dynamic transitions. I felt this wouldn’t have undermined the unwavering naturalistic acting but could have complemented it. The relentless blackouts were frustrating and episodic, and some of the lighting was clumsy. I also questioned the necessity of the projector that seemed to threaten the intricate world that the three actors crafted so well. Yet these shortcomings are at times inevitable in an Edinburgh run.

As the audience filed out in near silence, it was clear that Mcvey communicated the devastating effects of the disease, whilst everyone pieced together the twists of the plot. This last sequence could have been extended, considering the hour felt by no means its actual length. For anyone looking to learn about dementia or interested in seeing an exceptional piece of new-writing, this is the show to see.

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The Blurb

Time is precious and when dementia is the villain, who is the criminal? This play is subtly powerful, sympathetic and sharp, sad and funny. A carer is brought in to help a family living with dementia only to discover that there is more than meets the eye. A father-daughter relationship is at breaking point and disaster is just around the corner.

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