Strangeways

Dot is going senile in her new Mancunian flat. It’s pouring and she is alone, apart from her cat Tiptoes, a visiting doctor and her uninvited dead husband, Vinny. Dot struggles to trust either her doctor or her husband’s ghost, both of whom claim to be helping her. Tiptoes is the only one Dot trusts, although she is failing to look after her properly, keeping her on an unbudging diet of Jaffa Cakes. The doctor threatens to take Tiptoes away, explaining that Dot is in no fit state to look after a pet. Meanwhile, the dark backstory of Dot’s and Vinny’s marriage unfolds itself. What begins as occasional traces of aggression in Vinny’s voice gives way to something far more serious.

Ellie Scanlan’s performance as Dot was amusing and energetic. However, it often seemed overacted, without the level of confidence necessary for this style. There were many awkward switches between emotional, naturalistic moments and laughable ones. This may have been an issue with the writing and although these switches can be pulled off well in certain tragicomedies, here they seemed stilted.

Certain moments also lacked conviction, for instance Dot’s initial reaction to Vinny’s entrance. Although his visits are common, Scanlan still appeared too casual. A degree of tension would have perhaps been more appropriate. Vinny’s outbreak of jealous rage also consisted mainly of shouting and speaking quickly. There didn’t seem to be a real connection with the character at this point. A little more sensitivity and psychological scrutiny could perhaps have gone into Vinny’s written and performed character more generally. The chemistry between Vinny and Dot also didn’t always seem natural, partly due to some awkward blocking. Clearly they have had a strained relationship to say the least but often their physical interactions seemed uncomfortable and not entirely for the right reasons.

However, the flickers between reality and Dot’s psyche were skilfully emulated via lighting changes and aided by actress Ella Thomson. Thomson as the Welsh caretaker Sam was top-notch. Staring on and smiling at the action when she wasn’t directly involved helped to emulate Dot’s paranoia about the intentions of those claiming they’re there to help. Thomson’s performance as the figments of Dot’s imagination and memory (Dot’s posh annoying sister, the Queen, Vinny) was also commendable, each character seeming fully realised, hilarious and distinct from the next.

Although there were several bad attempts at jokes made at inappropriate moments, the script was generally witty and genuinely innovative. It explores the human tendency to harm those who love you and who you love best, shown most vividly in the painful and strange final moments of the piece. The real joy of the piece was in its character dissection of Dot the dark journeys through the past the audience get to experience.

Performances

The Blurb

Dot is moving into her new flat. It’s a wet Mancunian morning. A geriatric with her cat and memories for company. Until her dead husband pops by to settle unfinished business. Darkly comic exploration of loneliness, loss and senility.