Descent

Linda McLaughlin
Oran Mor
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

This Play a Pie and a Pint is not easy lunchtime viewing; it is a no-holds-barred study in the different stages of dementia. It takes a very real look at the problem going well beyond memory loss.

The play also focuses on how family members deal with the suffering of a loved one. Bob (Barrie Hunter) is an architect who is shown descending from the early stages of dementia and on to when he has to go into a home. It's a well informed and very difficult performance by Hunter.

His wife Cathy (Wendy Seager) and daughter Nicola (Fiona MacNeil) are torn apart by their different views on how to deal with the problem. The play covers Bob's loss of abilities, loss of memory, but also the really nasty side of the disease in how it can lead to anger and aggression. The scene of Bob attacking Cathy and how she deals with it really brings home how the real tragedy is the fate of the sufferers' loved ones, particularly partners.

The play shows Bob's transformation, but also equally horrible the way Cathy is worn down dealing with her husband's problem, highlighting that feeling of not wanting to betray a partner by involving other people in their care. Nicola by contrast wants to involve the health service and tries to be more rational than her mother, putting the two at odds with each other.

There is, though, no easy way of dealing with this incurable disease. The play's set features a wall of complex house models and a paper floor on which Bob ends up scribbling, the human mind at once so complex and also so fragile.

Most of us will at some point in our lives come in contact with this condition and the play manages to present it on stage in an unsentimental way. It is tough viewing as the performances are so strong.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin