A familiar musty, greasy odour fills the space of the Hope Theatre. It’s the smell that exists in elderly care homes and similar places. This time it lingers in a very small, 50’s style living room – a typical post-war abode of cosy furnishings, sugary shades and pretty sprigged florals. Home to grandmother, Alice (Mary Rutherford) and granddaughter, Rosie (Louise Coulthard), Cockamamyexamines the reality of living with dementia and its effect on the immediate family.
Based on their experiences of caring for their grandmothers, writer Louise Coulthard and director Rebecca Loudon, create a highly personal piece of theatre that’s as hilarious as it is heart-breaking. With 1 in 6 people diagnosed with dementia, the pair’s story shines a light on what is now the leading cause of death in the UK.
Elle Loudon’s design evokes strong memories of the past. A photo of a handsome naval officer stands proudly on display, provoking confusing memories of a sometimes loving husband/occasional thieving drunk. This uncertainty is aided by Jacob Webb’s sound design and Chris May’s lighting, with distorted musical numbers and flickering lamps reflecting the degeneration of the mind and occasional lapses in memory.
With utmost grace and deep empathy, Rutherford delivers a highly sensitive performance as Alice; a woman who’s slowly disappearing into her own body. Coulthard never lets the audience forget Rosie’s unceasing love for her grandmother, despite feeling the frustration and anger often experienced by relatives living with the disease. Rowan Polonski makes a respectable appearance as Cavan, Rosie’s boyfriend, although it does feel as though his character’s only purpose is to serve as the harsh reminder of the impact such a disease can have on relationships.
A very straight, linear narrative, Cockamamy, is limited by the nature of its subject matter. There is really only one way this story can go. However, it’s refreshing to see a play about dementia that focusses just as much on the affection, as it does the tragedy. A touching tribute to the special bond between a grandparent and grandchild, Cockamamy is a beautiful and powerful piece of storytelling that deserves to be seen.
Images: Alex Brenner