Sofa

Jacqueline Avery
The MakeShift Ensemble
Cheltenham Everyman Theatre Studio

Jacqueline Avery and Lawrence Aldridge Credit: The MakeShift Ensemble

Two actors, Jacqueline Avery and Lawrence Aldridge, with the help of a puppet—the life-sized upper torso—explore the memories of a brother and sister who have lost their father to dementia.

Inspired by real life events and experiences, the piece tells the stories and discovers the effects of memory and 'unmemory' of family relationships with humour and pathos. Using physical ensemble performance, in all its forms, as a tool for engaging, affecting and passing on the stories, this is a well devised piece.

An old, well-loved Laura Ashley sofa takes centre stage and the play opens with a physical theatre routine using cushions, a blanket and wooden box lids to mimic the beating of a heart.

Brother and sister have escaped the mourners of their father’s former work colleague and Dime bar confidant friend, Mr Sinclair, at the wake taking place in their family home.

Sitting on the sofa they reminisce all that the sofa has seen and taken part in, from being a boat, an island and a den. It is a Pandora of artefacts from their childhoods from objects stuffed down the sides to a seaside rock pool under one of the cushions which is home to a crab which successfully captivated the audience with its surprises.

The puppet torso of the departed father is worked between the actors to great effect as we are led from normal life to living with someone who has dementia and the distress it causes to all around. It is not all doom and gloom and there are some funny lines which had the audience chuckling as well as a very cleverly choreographed dance routine using shirts and trousers, on hangers, to represent their father and the inconsistencies of the way they each remembered him.

The text, by Jacqueline Avery, at times is powerful enough not to need physical movement with it and is just as powerfully accompanied by a brilliant original music score by Lawrence Aldridge.

Reviewer: Judith Wordsworth