Still Alice was adapted by Christine Mary Dunford from the book by Lisa Genova. This play premiered in the Looking Glass Theatre in Chicago in April 2013.
Alice Howland is stubborn, clever and driven, a professional at the top of her game, before, at the age of fifty, she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and forced to face her new reality. Her deterioration is viewed not only through her transformed relationship with her family, but the way in which she engages with her own mind. The interplay between Alice and ‘Herself’ enables us to see the disconnect between Alice’s feelings and her behaviour.
This consummate production portrays a difficult subject with humour, sensitivity and emotion. Often, when describing a play, we talk of the flow and the development of the characters and the plot. In this production, this is made deliberately difficult with its disjointed structure, its plethora of scene changes and musical interludes. As a member of the audience, I found this both interesting and irritating. However, this was deliberate, an expression of how it must feel to have yourself slowly diminishing.
The relationship between Alice and Herself is cleverly written and instinctively executed by Linsey O’Neill and Kim Burdon Thompson respectively. Simon Langford as John Howland convincingly displays the love and frustration of a devoted husband who is losing his partner in life, piece by piece. Harry Webb (Lydia) gave an effective performance as the thespian daughter who grows closer to her mother as the play progresses while Matthew Barrett (Thomas), whose part in the script was somewhat underdeveloped, gave a good insight into how difficult and unbelievable he found his mother’s situation.
Veronica Ryder, Steve Moore and Becki Lavender helped to perfectly convey some of the difficult conversations that need to take place when dealing with this wasting disease as medical professionals and friends.
Before watching this production, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s disease, but I now understand much more. I was struck by how quickly the mind can diminish in these circumstances and was reminded of this by the passage of time displayed during the performance.
I imagine this play was very difficult to direct and perform but the Castle Players achieved a sensitive and thought-provoking performance. Still Alice is at the Lytchett Matravers Village Hall Thursday 19 – Saturday 21 May at 7.30pm.
“A sensitive and compassionate insight into a condition that is likely to brush all of our lives in some way.”