This play was about dementia. There are no two ways about it, and it quickly got down to it’s subject matter and you could see where it was inevitably heading. Never the less it was heart wrenching and emotional, in a simple way.
Personifying dementia as the muse Mneme (Mnemosyne) to Dante, not actual Dante from the old days, but Dante the character in the play who suffered from dementia. Dante is an academic with a passion for ancient Greece. Mnemosyne is memory personified in Greek mythology and she is the one who takes Dante’s memories away. The transition of memories is gradual and was beautiful to witness. Music was used very cleverly to show the transition, and also to awaken memory.
Dante’s daughter Iphee (another reference to ancient Greece) comes to visit and the start of the play and quickly realises that there is something wrong. She encourages him to see a doctor, which he doesn’t do at first.
All the while his muse, Mneme, muses on subjects such as memory and how she doesn’t choose where she goes. She has Dante’s memories and she knows and understands his family. At times she also speaks the words of Dante’s wife who passed away a few years previously.
There are threads of other stories which help to move the story along. Such as Iphee’s marriage which crumbles through out the play.
Time passes, and although this is necessary to show the development of the dementia there were a lot of black outs and a couple of times I thought the play had ended when it hadn’t.
Some other things that I enjoyed were the exploration of the borders between remembering something, knowing something and not knowing something. Also how your memories are “tangled” up with other peoples memories. My favourite moment was probably when the issue of suicide was raised in an argument causing Iphee to worry further about her fathers ability to look after himself. She couldn’t say the word, only referred to it as “what you just said”.
The narrator role that the muse took was at times too authorial, and told the audience what to think. “Iphee grew up to be a strong woman”, and this was a little distracting. Her face and expressions and symmetry of Dante was perfect and showed the work that had been put in to rehearsing the piece.
(Spoiler alert!) I was disappointed in the end, which I felt undermined Iphee’s character. Part way through the play her husband James called to say he was divorcing her. At which point she went through all the tough times when he hadn’t been there for her. Exposing him as, it seemed to me, a horrible and unsupportive husband. He then called at the end of the play to say he missed her and wanted to come and see her, and she was more than happy to forgive and forget. I am just not sure that a “strong woman” would have been so quick to take him back.
Written by Alison Farina, the play continues at the Alma Tavern, Bristol until Saturday 14thSeptember.