Written and performed by Kate Maravan, ‘The Old House’, was inspired by her own experience of coming to terms with her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Directed by Kath Burlinson, the play does not fall into the category of monologue, as even though only one person performs, Maravan’s ability to move between characters, creates a feeling of two very different personas on stage.
A moving tale of a mother and daughter trying to navigate their changing relationship which is evolving constantly as the side effects of the Alzheimer’s begins to have an impact. We meet the two of them, as they take a trip to their old house, which brings back fond memories, as they spend time together at the beach and reminisce about past times.
This is a beautifully written play, with Maravan’s own experience of a similar situation clearly shown in her empathetic performance and writing. The lack of any staging seems to intensify the feelings communicated, as the viewer’s attention is not enticed away. Even though Maravan inhabits the stage alone, the sound design by Adrienne Quartly, creates a background that stimulates the senses. The noise of the waves washing onto the beach give a sense of calm, but on the flip side, also highlights the precarious situation the mother and daughter relationship is in. As the daughter struggles to not only come to terms with the changes to her mother, but she also tries to understand how physically and mentally to cope with it herself.
It is a credit to Maravan’s acting skills, that her masterful command of the stage makes the two, so very different characters, so utterly believable. Assisted no doubt from movement direction from Vincent Manna, Maravan visibly morphs between mother and daughter. It is this contrast between the characters, that really helps to demonstrate how the illness affects its victims by taking away clarity of thought.
Beautifully interspersed within the play are poetic interludes which help to create some rhythm and lighten the tone. Even though there is a sadness to the subject matter, we are also treated to some moments when, during more lucid times, the joy of their connection returns, even if only fleetingly. Undoubtedly, Alzheimer’s has taken away her mother’s notion of self-awareness, and ability to cope in unfamiliar situations, the most hurtful for her daughter, is the loss of memory. Her inability to remember personal tragedies, and also her fading joyful memories of their past life together.
‘The Old House’, lovingly shares a story of loss and grief, but also through the excellent storytelling, encourages us to live life with compassion.
I would urge you to watch this play before the Brighton Fringe Festival ends on the 11th July.
To watch the play, go to https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/the-old-house-143998/
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 21st June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★