In Other Words Traverse Theatre Edinburgh Friday 1st March 2019

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“In Other Words” at The Traverse Theatre Edinburgh (Scottish Premiere) is simply a “do not miss” piece of theatre but, sadly, with only two performance dates (Friday 1st and 2nd March), most people reading this review will have missed these dates.

“In Other Words” takes its title from those classic lines in the classic song made famous by Frank Sinatra “Fly Me To The Moon”, and the relationship that Arthur and Jane have to this song and the music of Frank Sinatra is both central and crucial to their story throughout their life together.  Other songs sung by Frank Sinatra also feature here, but the most poignant and relevant “other song” has to be “That’s Life”.

Arthur and Jane did not have the best of starts to their relationship, and what they call ‘the incident’ has far sadder echoes many years down their life together.   “In Other Words” is a true love story, and Angela Hardie and Matthew Seager are one of the most convincing couples that I have seen on stage in a long time; there is a chemistry on-stage between Angela and Matthew that makes you believe in them as a couple who love one another deeply, and also as individuals that you care about.  This is theatre stripped of anything but the most basic stage setting, light and sound to rely on nothing more than the power of a fine script and two gifted performers to bring those words and characters to life. “In Other Words” is theatre that pulls its audience into the world of the story and does not let them go until the last second.  Well to be honest, for me, it is still holding my attention as I write this review.

Why is this story so powerful?  Well, apart from the reasons already stated, much of its power comes from having to face on stage one of the deepest fears that many of us have in our 21st century life, the great unspoken “elephant in the room” – dementia in all its many variants, with Alzheimer's Disease perhaps being the most widely known one.  What exactly do we fear the most about this terrible and progressive disease, it happening to us, or having to watch and deal with it happening to a loved one?  There are no real answers to this question.

In our story here, after many missed clues, Arthur is finally diagnosed with progressive dementia and Jane not only has to deal with trying her best to support him, but also to find a way to cope herself as she watches the physical and mental deterioration of the love of her life and the many changes that this brings into their relationship. Throughout everything though, music is still something that Arthur and Jane can communicate through at some level, and the brief moments where Arthur regains a little of his memory of his life with Jane are truly touching.

There is a tight script here that is heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measures, but it is often the unspoken body language and facial expressions of both Angela Hardie and Matthew Seager that say more than words can ever say.

The subject matter of this story is one that was always going to need a gentle touch from everyone, as many people in the audience may have personally dealt with or be dealing with the devastation that dementia can bring to their lives, and this is a sensitive production throughout with skilful writing by Matthew Seager with design and direction by Paul Brotherston.

Very selective use of sound in the design here is also important here and Iida Aino uses this often too neglected area to give us at times an insight into the clouds of confusion that are in Arthur’s head.  Subtle lighting design (William Alder) also works well to mark the progression of time in our story.

I have to mention here the important work of Music for Dementia charity “Playlist For Life” who through the use of music are making a real difference to many people’s lives as they try to come to terms with and cope with the many challenges they face on a daily basis.  Playlist for Life have been working with this production from the very beginning and further details about the charity are available from their website at

https://www.playlistforlife.org.uk/

 

Review by Tom King

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TOM KING

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