Darlington Arts Centre
From 23 February 2012 to 24 February 2012
Review by Peter Lathan
For a children's theatre company to produce a play aimed at age 10 and above about the relationship between young and old and dealing with dementia and memory loss is brave indeed, so let it be said right from the outset that Theatre Hullabaloo's Angel is an unqualified success.
Bill, a young girl with a not entirely happy home life (her parents are on the verge of separating) meets Miriam who is slipping into but fighting against dementia. A highly unlikely friendship springs up between the two and Bill is able to help Miriam come to terms with some regrets from the distant past and, to an extent, accept the present. As she does so, the play touches on a range of age-related issues, not least the way in which society diminishes the elderly "for their own good".
Stated so baldly it sounds like one of those worthy but dull theatre in education pieces which concentrate on issues rather than character or plot, but that does the play—and this production—a great disservice, for both are sensitive, poignant and at times funny, involving the audience in the story and allowing it to make the point subtly, indeed almost subliminally.
Issue-driven theatre can be patronising but Angel doesn't even comes close. The characters are well drawn, totally believable with both good and not so attractive traits. Real human beings, in fact.
I saw it in its second preview, in front of an audience comprised of young children (about 10, I think) and a group of old people under the auspices of Age Concern. Both groups were held—fascinated might be a better word—throughout. They can both be somewhat difficult audiences, being inclined to make audible comments, but not here.
The cast of three—Jessica Barnes as Miriam, Lindsey Chapman as Bill and Adrian Palmer as Lewie—under the direction of Ruth Cooper keep the piece moving at a good pace, avoiding the temptation to overdo the moments of pathos and really endear themselves to the audience.
This is children's theatre at its best, which means that adults will both enjoy it and get a lot from it, because good children's theatre is just good theatre!
Angel tours to Halifax, Margate, Canterbury, Hexham, Alnwick, Barnard Castle, Kirkoswald, Richmond (North Yorkshire), Salford, Maidenhead, York, Leeds, Washington, Aberdeen and Fife.