Still Alice CREDIT Geraint Lewis

Still Alice

Reviewer's Rating

The adaptation of Lisa Genova’s novel, by Christine Mary Dunford, is an Ibsen play. Its central figure, Alice, begins to forget things. She finds herself disorientated on runs, forgetting how to get home. The great mind of the academic is struggling, and she is subsequently diagnosed with early-onset dementia. The play follows her and her struggles with the disease as it takes its hold on her and changes her life.

Alice, played by the superb Sharon Small, is joined by another iteration of herself. A kind of simultaneously Alice-from-the-past and a version of Alice from right there and then, who’s struggling and suffering along with her real-life self. Eva Pope plays the character, entitled Herself, in a touching and supportive manner, though the metaphor certainly works better in the first half of the play than the second.

This focus on Alice means we get a very clear insight into her diagnosis and subsequent life living with Alzheimer’s. It’s incredibly sad as she continuous to lose elements of herself that made her seem such a charming and charismatic figure in the early scenes of the play. There is a moment where she cannot remember where to find the bathroom in her own, and subsequently wets herself. There is no shying away from her experience, no matter how upsetting it seems.

As such, this singular focused approach on Alice means that the other characters often feel somewhat side-lined. There various subplots seem mere introductions, not built upon enough to draw signs to the scale of Alice’s decline. Nonetheless, the highlight of the play comes when she cannot recognise her actress daughter at the debut performance of her own play. Ruth Ollman as Lydia commands a particular deft in her acting, and we see some true moments of tender care from Martin Marquez as John, even as caring for his wife continuous to test him personally and occupationally.

Gregory Clarke’s sound design underscores some otherwise slightly fussy scene changes, with the less-is-more moments of staging proving suitably efficient. This does somewhat distract from an otherwise concise story that could probably do with fleshing out of the supporting characters to ensure they remain integral, rather than conduits, to the plays leading role.