JOYCE MCMILLAN on COULDN’T CARE LESS at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 19.10.13
4 stars ****
THERE’S SOMETHING UNEASY about the process of reviewing a show like Couldn’t Care Less, staged by Edinburgh-based groups Plutot La Vie and Strange Theatre as part of this autumn’s Luminate Festival of creative ageing. Whatever the quality of the work, there’s always a sense that it’s primary purpose is to address the subject in hand, and to give a voice to people whose problems are often ignored; and there’s no doubt that Liz Strange’s new 60-minuite show – with text by Morna Pearson, and direction by Tim Licata – makes a superb job of exploring the experience of elderly people with dementia, and, most strikingly, of those who find themselves caring for them.
So as the story begins – on a domestic set full of suitcases stuffed with memories – we see elderly Elspeth transformed within months from a brisk, perfectly-organised retired dance teacher and sometime magician’s assistant, to a confused and withdrawn figure who often hardly recognises her own child; while her daughter Lilly undergoes her own frightening journey from a high-powered life as a successful PR woman in London, to the day-to-day drudgery of an unpaid carer on attendance allowance.
If the real-life problems around this all-too-common situation are perfectly observed, though, it’s also good to report that despite some cliched acting in the early scenes, the show soon achieves a real creative beauty and fluency in its handling of the theme, using movement, dream sequences, gorgeous ballroom dance music, and an understated but subtly magical set, to evoke the “new dance” of caring and mothering that Elspeth and Lilly must learn. So much so, that at the end, some members of the audience seemed unable to leave their seats; perhaps moved beyond words by the intense sympathy with which this show explores the experience – so often private and hidden – of accompanying a much-loved parent on the hardest journey of all.