In the top of the Hope and Anchor, one of my favourite venues displays yet another interesting and ground breaking piece of new writing.
Matthew Seager, who also stars as our main man in this duologue of a production, debuts his writing in the form of a tale about a couple dealing with the slow deterioration due to age and dementia.
We run through, back and forth to the past, the present and an almost out of body experience of the couple looking back on their life, giving a narrative to their own torment. Coming into the production itself, the couple interact with us, become playful with each other, and when relating the narrative to us, we are brought in, trusted and engaged with. This in itself connects us and makes us feel as if we have known this pair our entire lives.
The slow deterioration is not referred to by name until near the end – dementia. Without prior knowledge, we can only guess what they are referring to and so it comes as a surprise to us, as it does to the characters despite our inner guesses and assumptions. With only two characters, the character of the Doctor is never seen and this draws us into the couple more, intruding on their thoughts and feelings.
Seagar is a loveable goon. We fall in love with him, just as his character wife does, and so to see him become something unlike himself it painful to us. Using his voice, his facial expressions and the change in his posture is natural and painful to watch but very like an older person conforming to dementia.
Celeste Dodwell is also a natural triumph. I had previously seen her only a week before in Testament by Old Sole Theatre. In the previous production, she also plays a character with an upsetting storyline. However, and it is not just because a change of accent from American to Australian (although her Australian accent in In Other Words is very subtle) but comparing the two approaches to the characters, she sure shows talent, showing such a difference between the two. She draws us in and we soon feel her pain, her thoughts and so the story soon becomes not about a man and his dementia, but how they both cope with the change.
With a basic staging, little props and beautiful old school Sinatra and changing in lighting to flag up a new scene, there is nothing fancy taking away interest from the writing but only adds to the theatricality of the play.
Looking around the audience, not a dry eye was in the house – men who in the queue to enter looked strong and alpha, are reduced to tears and myself… well… my sleeve was soaked with drying my eyes at the end. In Other Words takes on a new approach to the subject and is beautifully tragic.