Assembly Roxy


Depictions of dementia aren’t new to either theatre or The Fringe, with plays such as Florian Zeller’s The Father, or the late Trevor T Smith’s An Evening with Dementia having graced the Festival stage to much regard as well as many a tearful eye and heavy heart.

Layers takes the tragically all-too-familiar concept and evokes it in a new and fascinating way by literally layering the story in a way that emphasises the confusion of a dementia sufferer, with the heartbreaking frustrations of those who are left to cope, as Yuuya Ishizone portrays an entire family through a specifically significant 10 minutes of their lives caught in a loop that adds more with each cycle.

It’s a great concept, as the audience watches him step around the stage, stiltedly at first, seemingly speaking gibberish to empty air through a thin gauze curtain only for the second cycle to project this first character onto the gauze, as Ishizone adds in another, then another, each time making more sense of the story. The layers of confusion peel away, the resonance of understanding falls, evoking not only sympathy but anger, sadness and frustration.

It’s a great piece of experimental theatre with innovative uses of technology that create an experience that would be impossible in any other way. Ishizone distinguishes each character in both voice and mannerisms as well as minor costume changes, but it’s the completion of the whole which lands with the greatest impact, as the tragedy of the mundanity of it all comes round to solidify the empathy with the audience.

With all experimental theatrical experiences, especially those which deal with technology, there are some drawbacks. Depending where you sit in the auditorium, the figures may not line up exactly with the actor or with the sole prop, a chair leading to momentary breaks in immersion when a projected character will sit down a few inches to the side of it. There is also a bookending issue of confusion, where the audience may struggle with the first cycle, as it’s unclear at first what is happening, and 10 minutes is a long period to lie in want of understanding. Contrastingly, the final cycle at first mystifies, but only to land with far greater clarity and with an emotional clout that comes unexpectedly.

A truly evocative and devastating piece of art proving that innovation is the greatest aid to understanding.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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