Plaques and Tangles, Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London, review: A terrific feat of imagination and fact

Dementia has now become what daffodils were to Wordsworth to some of the keenest artistic minds of our era

Paul Taylor
Wednesday 21 October 2015 14:58
Monica Dolan
Monica Dolan

What daffodils were to Wordsworth and deprivation to Philip Larkin, the subject of dementia has now become to some of the keenest artistic minds of our era. Nicola Wilson makes a debut of extraordinary structural flair and adroitly devastating emotional power with this play about Megan, a fast-living, sharp-minded lexicographer, who discovers that she has a 50-50 chance of developing early onset Alzheimer's just as she is due to marry. In her mid-forties, she is offered the test to determine whether she has the gene, by which time, she and her devoted husband have a daughter and a sixteen year old son who has just got his girlfriend pregnant.

The moral implications of the no-win choice facing Megan and the knock-on effect of having this condition cascade down the generations are teased out in a play of irreverent black humour and heart-wrenching force as the mind of the crumbling middle-aged Megan (all raucous disinhibition and bewildered terror in Monica Dolan's brilliant performance) is jolted by associations, so that in Lucy Morrison's witty, mesmerising production, she shares the stage with her bright, sexy younger self (Rosalind Eleazar), her fearfully concerned present family, and her projection of her own mother (Brid Brennan. She dies of the disease in her forties and now prowel prowling up and down a spectral staircase as the old bat she did not have the luxury of becoming. A terrific feat of imagination and vividly marshalled fact.

To November 21; 020 7565 5000

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