OLD FOOLS

17 Mar

OLD FOOLS ****
BY TRISTAN BERNAYS
AT THE SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE

Tristan Bernays adventure into the lives of a married couple makes an extraordinary play. Much has been written about Alzheimer’s Disease, but this is the one that brings the message home so completely and in a seemingly effortless manner. Like many people’s lives, those of Tom and Viv are surprisingly funny and almost unbearably tragic. Asked how he wanted audiences to describe his play he said heart-warming and heart-breaking.
The play is written without a conventional time frame. A spoken word can send the minds of the characters into a completely different time and place – life for
Tom and Viv is a series of snapshots.
We are allowed into the heads of the two characters and we see them live through the changes in their relationships and their relationships with their parents and children. All portrayed by the same two actors.
In order for this to work, one needs a couple of outstanding players and here they have them Mark Arends and Frances Grey work together as if they are reading each other’s thoughts and give the audience the impression that they are also thinking and feeling just like the characters in the play. We get to know Tom as he was a cheeky young man, who picks up Viv by telling her she fancies him. We see them as young courting couple m as a married couple with conflicting professional problems and separations and near break-downs of their marriage.
I t has been directed carefully and with imagination by Sharon Burrell who has light handed way of dealing with this most tragic subject. The song that haunts them throughout their life cycle is the song that was playing when they first met. ‘The Way you look tonight’ A memory song, that cuts through the awfulness of memory loss.
My father had an early stroke and lost his ability to speak at all, so his means of communication were in song –as a musician he had a load of songs at his disposal. He could always find one to express what he was feeling even though he could not persuade his larynx to let him speak without music.
The actors play the whole thing on a bare stage with just one stool.
It is an extraordinary experience for an audience allowed into the hearts, minds and worlds of people under the threat of a dreadful disease.
The production is an official supporter of Alzheimer’s Research.

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