By Flossie Waite
Presented by tutti frutti and York Theatre Royal
11am, 11th May 2014
Monday’s Child captures every use of the word ‘play’. Tightly choreographed, neatly directed, and with an excellent, intuitive script, this production still manages to capture the magic of spontaneous fun. A remarkable two-hander between Josie Cerise (Girl) and Erika Poole (Woman), Monday’s Child plays out the parallels between family members at opposite ends of life. A grandmother and her grandchild meet and play in the park until teatime every week, though Woman doesn’t recall this is a regular appointment – or even that they have ever met. The play sensitively explores the many ways memory loss is painful, but also the many ways it makes the time the two spend together – learning, discovering, singing and dancing – surprising and joyful.
The production is rooted in research on memory loss and dementia, including director Wendy Harris and playwright Brendan Murray talking to The Alzheimer’s Society and top neurologists. Despite this anchoring, no condition or illness is explicitly mentioned, which is part of the production’s beauty – lots is left unsaid. The pastel-rainbow set, vivid costumes and atmospheric music add to the dream-like feel of the piece; it is left unclear quite where the Woman and Girl are, for example. The park is, surreally, filled with suitcases and boxes which the two slowly unpack, allowing both them and us to try to piece together the grandmother’s story. The physicality of the two performers is striking, as they use movement to highlight their difference in age and similarity in essence. No matter how little Woman thinks they know each other (“You’re not a stranger,” “I’ve only got your word for that!”), actions speak louder than words. This also applies to emotion – the young audience can feel and recognise the grandmother’s frustration and sadness, even if the language might not explicitly explain it.
The play never deals in stereotypes, being careful to reveal the complexities of memory loss – the grandmother’s first words recall the end of a poem that the grandchild has forgotten, and throughout the performance it is interesting to watch the different triggers for her memory. Monday’s Child shows that memory can be silly – who would keep fish fingers in their hand bag? It can be annoying – Girl sulks when Woman forgets the game they are playing. It can even be irrelevant, as when they are blowing bubbles or collecting treasures. Crucially, the subject matter never feels overbearing, with the production’s approach focusing very much on their relationship, and the way the two have fun together and help each other. Monday’s Child could so easily have become a sentimental forty-five minutes, but instead it is wonderfully simple and simply flies by.
Images by Brian Slater.
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