Brett Herriot Review

Still Alice, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Review:

***** 5 Stars

Intensely Beautiful, Imbued with hope.

Lisa Genova’s acclaimed novel has been adapted for the stage by Christine Mary Dunford and premiered in 2013 at the Looking glass theatre company Chicago, its now embarking on a UK tour and makes its Scottish debut at the Kings Theatre Edinburgh.

Telling the story of Alice Howland (a power house performance by Sharon Small) a professor of linguistics at Harvard University, of which she was also a student, who has the most perfect of lives, with a loving husband John (Martin Marquez) a research scientist, Aspiring actor daughter Lydia (Ruth Ollman) and son Thomas (Mark Armstrong) who is discovering fatherhood for himself. This ideal is shattered by Alice’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease this is a play that not only looks at living with a life changing and still life ending disease but also a family dealing with a crisis as they lose the wife and mother that’s become the lynch pin of their world. It is indeed a story that drawn from human emotion and performed in a way that is intensely beautiful and imbued with hope.

Dunford’s stroke of brilliance is the creation of the character “herself” played with stellar strength by Eva Pope, “Herself” is a younger version of Alice an interior voice brought to life that while Sharon Small’s elder Alice drifts into the abyss of the disease over taking her, at times lucid and in touch with her memories whilst the Alzheimer’s drifts across her memory and body like a soft curtain blowing in the breeze of an open window. Pope’s “Herself” shines with the conviction of the younger Alice blessed with an incredible academic mind and tries to make sense of the rapidly changing world of her older self.

This one act play is gripping from the off thanks to the design of Jonathan Fensom, Lighting design by Jason Taylor and sound design by Gregory Clarke these three elements have blended together under the expert direction of David Grindley, the cleverness of the set slowly disappearing to a bare stage as the disease takes a hold of Alice could lead to a downward post show thoughts, however it’s the opposite Still Alice leaves the audience filled with hope, not just for the brilliance of the performance, its story, production and writing but for the grace of humanity that forces us to examine ourselves and learn for the stories of other people’s journey through life.

Still Alice greatest moment is when Alice delivers one last lecture and emotionally says “I will not remember speaking to you, but I hope you remember I spoke” as a critic and as audience member it was a privilege to be able to hear Alice speak, do what you must to hear her before its too late.

Still Alice, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 29th September For Tickets go to:

Still Alice will also visit Glasgow Theatre Royal, 13th – 17th November

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