There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s moonlight
And music and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance…
It has long been known that our senses have a great connections with memory. Our sense of smell certainly does, as well as our sense of hearing – or more specifically its realation to music. William Congreve’s famous quote “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast” is particularly pertinent and the bedrock for the latest play at the Hope Theatre. Having researched the relationship between music and wholeness of mnd, Matthew Seager has written a heartbreaking play that shows music’s importance in a marriage and for assauging the more serious aspects of dementia.
Set during the early 1950s, we’re introduced to a young couple who even at this juncture of their lives, have experienced more than their fair share of tribulations and are reminded of the phrase “In sickness and in health” daily.
Celeste Dodwell plays Jane, a young Australian woman who through a mishap involving wine, meets and falls in love with her future husband Arthur. Played by Seager himself, Arthur is initially very apologetic, but has a cheeky confidence about him. Dancing to Frank Sinatra tunes plays a big part in their courtship and whenever Arthur has done something that will upset his wife, he pre-emptively plays ‘their song’ so Jane has ‘no choice’ but to dance with him and forgive whatever he’s done.
The play takes pains to show how warm and solid their relationship is, which makes the future events all the more tragic. The way that forgetfulness creeps in to Arthur’s daily llife is very relatable – scary in fact, as we could be suffering the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s too without knowing it. As the dementia takes hold, simple things become extraordinarily difficult and frayed nerves are a common occurrence.
The sound design and lighting plays a big part in depicting Arthur’s mind when he’s suffering from stimuli-overload and in turn how distressing it is for Jane, who is trying to hold the marriage together, both emotionally and in a practical sense.
Seager and Dodwell show real chemistry as Arthur and Jane, who endeavour to hold on to that kernel of serenity they once had, through good times and bad. Dodwell shows real mettle as Jane who when occasion demands it can be tough on her husband in making sure he asks for help, but whose real ‘strength’ is her heart. Seager’s equally truthful in portraying Arthur’s anger and fear as his lucidity slips away for ever greater periods.
Under the direction of Paul Brotherston, In Other Words is a life-affirming play that reminds us of what the human spirit can and will overcome, with love as a source of hope and determination.
© Michael Davis 2017
In Other Words runs at Hope Theatre, London until 18th March 2017.