Glass reviews In Other Words at The Hope Theatre, Islington, London

THE power of music, or one particular song in this case, to transport someone back to a different time, alleviate their anxiety and trigger memories that their nearest and dearest thought they had completely forgotten, is a pretty phenomenal triumph. This is the red thread that runs through Off The Middle’s latest production, In Other Words, which explores the painful and often taboo subject of Alzheimer’s disease and its effect on a marriage. Underpinned by the music of Frank Sinatra, In Other Words tells the poignant love story of Arthur and Jane, from the fateful day they met, right through the trials and tribulations of their relationship, when Arthur develops early onset Alzheimer’s.

StoryPicture_in other words photo 4Celeste Dodwell as Jane and Matt Seager as Arthur in In Other Words

Let’s make no bones about it, a play about the collapse of a blissful marriage because of Alzheimer’s disease is never going to be a laugh a minute, but director Paul Brotherston and his cast manage to balance the agony and realism of the disease with such touching, humorous and delightful moments, that you can’t help but smile through the tears. The play was developed through a residency at the Lyric Hammersmith last January and is based on playwright Matt Seager’s first hand experiences running workshops for dementia residents. The attention to detail is impressive and it is obvious the amount of research and care that has gone into providing an accurate and insightful examination of the condition.

StoryPicture_in other words photo 5Celeste Dodwell as Jane and Matt Seager as Arthur

Not only is Matt Seager the playwright, he also plays the part of Arthur, opposite the enigmatic Celeste Dodwell who plays his devoted wife Jane. As the only two actors on stage for an intense 70-minute piece, Seager and Dodwell work incredibly hard to keep the audience hanging on their every word. We witness their first awkward encounter involving a spilled glass of red wine and then the narrative dips in and out of key points in their marriage, punctuated by their shared love of dancing to Arthur’s favourite song. The chemistry between the two of them is electric and engaging, kept so beautifully together by Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon. Whatever the argument or the upset, this is the song that centres the pair, dispels their quarrels and later on in the play, restores calm into a confused and upset Arthur.

StoryPicture_In Other words photo 1In Other Words – Celeste Dodwell as Jane and Matt Seager as Arthur

Celeste Dodwell absolutely shines as Jane, highlighting the constant battle of trying to remain strong, cheerful and positive while having to deal with the tragedy of losing the man she loves, day by day. Her performance is captivating and heart breaking, complemented perfectly by Seager’s endearing and charming Arthur. Witnessing his transformation from an energetic, though somewhat clumsy lothario into a disorientated and frightened housebound man is quietly haunting and sheds light on the truly life-altering effects of Alzheimer’s.

Story`Picture_in other words photo 3In Other Words – Celeste Dodwell as Jane and Matt Seager as Arthur

The Hope Theatre is a fantastic setting for such a personal, intimate performance. We feel like we are siting in Jane and Arthur’s living room as they laugh, bicker and cry throughout the piece. The play is bought together by bold lighting choices from Will Alder; cleverly conveying the transition of time and helping us navigate between the couple commentating on their life and the flashbacks to memory sequences. Bursting with honestly and humility, In Other Words is a heart wrenching but uplifting piece, not to be missed.

by Heather Doughty

Photography by Alex Fine

Find the cast, writer and director on twitter here @TheHopeTheatre @BrotherstonPaul @OTM_Theatre @Mattseager4

In Other Words runs at The Hope Theatre until March 18, 2017

The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, London, N1 1RL