As a character actor, Pip Utton is renowned for his depictions of world-famous figures, ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Charles Dickens and everything in between. This year is a much more intimate affair as we enter the life of Michael, a fictional carer for his childhood sweetheart Christy whose life has slowly deteriorated following her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease. Both in-depth research and personal experience have moulded this into a semi-autobiographical tale that is one of the most moving, human performances I have ever seen at the Fringe.
A moment of catharsis for audience and actor; a shared outburst of love, grief and pain.
It’s an achingly familiar love story, told with exquisite sensitivity and poise. Opening at the eulogy for his wife’s funeral, we follow Michael across the next three years of birthdays, anniversaries and doctor’s appointments, which culminate in his own diagnosis of dementia. It’s a bittersweet journey, with moments of warm laughter directly juxtaposed against the desperate vulnerability of losing first a loved one, then one’s self, that Utton directs with gentle grace.
Pip is a delicate master of his craft, with the subtle transformation from loving widower to lost soul leaving very few dry eyes in the audience. It’s the nuanced details in the stories he recounts, however, that will ultimately break your heart: the notes left around the house, or the phone calls in the middle of the night, that resounded with myself and clearly several others around me.
Following a standing ovation, Pip Utton was stood at the door to shake everyone’s hand at the end of the show, and there were more than a few heartfelt hugs as well. And Before I Forget… is a moment of catharsis for audience and actor; a shared outburst of love, grief and pain. Nothing I can say about this show will do it enough justice.