Dementia. Even the name is enough to fill us dread yet it is a matter of reality for those who have it or care for a loved one with this condition. Here, Re:live has created a work of universal appeal in its insight, its handling of tragedy but also hope.
Written by Karin Diamond (who also performs in the work), Belonging is a touching, play with a light touch, about characters in Wales. It all starts off with the characters’ realisations that dementia is starting to affect them, as the discovery of bread found in bedrooms and handbags found in the garden. Loved ones realise they cannot cope with the massive task it is going to be to care for a parent with the condition. A serious subject, of course, but the play is blessed with plenty of humour. Touching moments are in plenty supply here, as well as insights from the characters.
Directed by Peter Doran, this is one of the most accessible plays that I have seen for a long time and I cannot stress enough how this work should get out into the community.
While the message is clear about the state of provision for people with dementia and their carers here in Wales, one monologue from a male nurse does get a little preachy. However, I like many others, can relate to the plight of people with dementia and other mental health conditions.
The performances are what make the show.
Wales Theatre Awards-winner Llion Williams as Morys is sympathetic, giving a heartfelt performance. He potters around the stage, using Welsh phrases (he is first language Welsh-speaking) and becomes stressed by the seemingly simplest of tasks. His wife, Mags, cannot speak Welsh and because of his condition this is the language Morys now uses. Superbly played by Cler Stephens, Mags endures a lot, yet, in one hair-raising moment she does consider whether she can continue.
Gillian Elisa is another great addition as Sheila, a manic, frustrated mum who is in denial that she may have the onset of dementia.
The show is simple in its delivery and lacks pretension which we can attribute to the influence of people who have shared their stories with the play’s creatives along the way.
With plenty of performances over Wales the next few weeks, Belonging is a show to definitely check out.
Belonging continues at Chapter Arts Centre until May 5, 2018 and then tours.
Chapter BSL performances: 1st May 2pm & 3rd May 7.30pm
Torch Theatre – 10th – 12th May Milford Haven
Theatr Clwyd BSL performance: 17th May 7.45pm
Taliesin BSL performances: 24th May 2pm & 7.30pm
Borough Theatre – 6th June Abergavenny
This review has been kindly supported by the Wales Critic Fund.