Dir. Matthew Lenton, Tramway, 3rd – 11th October
Presented as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.
You never know what to expect when approaching a show by Vanishing Point. This is an innovative company who have performed completely in the dark and behind glass – what would they do with the sensitive topic of dementia?
Tomorrow follows George and four other elderly people in a nursing home and their experiences with dementia, alongside three nurses who work there. George is often visited by his daughter who he occasionally mistakes for his wife, and finally asks her to kill him.
Vanishing Point use prosthetics to change the actors into their older selves. Extremely realistic, these cover the head, neck, and chest. While wearing them, they often could not communicate fully with those around them; without them, they communicated easily – the prosthetic represented the illness as the barrier between them and the rest of the world. At the beginning of the play, George is shown his prosthetic, but does not recognise it as he does not feel that he belongs to the elderly body he now has.
The questioning of memory and reality is a theme which runs through the piece. This is emphasised by the use of a multi-aged cast. The children who featured several scenes are left ambiguous, and during the Q&A after a performance, Lenton refuses to tell the audience who they were. George bumps into his real/older self at the beginning of the play, but does not recognise that it’s him, making the audience question how much is occurring merely in the heads of the patients.
This is repeated later, when George attempts to escape from the nursing home, and he hears the other patients egging him on. Although this scene does convey the confusion that occurs through dementia, it is the only weak area of an otherwise tight and faultless play as it lacks the depth and subtlety of the rest of the piece.
While the overall tone is thoughtful, the nurses added some light relief. Making jokes about which patient they would sleep with if they had to, or commentating the race for the comfiest armchair, they contrast with the near silent inmates. However, the laughter they provoke is tinged with guilt, bringing into question what we find too delicate to joke about.
With exquisite performances from all, Tomorrow is a sensitive and emotional piece which portrays the difficulties that dementia brings to all it touches in a moving and beautiful way.
Photo credit: Humberto Araujo