Tron Theatre, Glasgow
When Arthur met Jane, it was love at first calculatedly clumsy wine spillage. What happens next in Matthew Seager’s heartfelt two-hander depends on who is doing the remembering. Or rather, who is capable of remembering, as love’s first excited flush gradually turns to plague brought on by the onset of Arthur’s all-encroaching Alzheimer’s disease, which makes the couple’s once blissful domestic life so agonising. The only thing that can get them through, it seems, is the Frank Sinatra song that accidentally became the soundtrack of their lives.
With Seager himself playing Arthur and Angela Hardie as Jane, Paul Brotherston’s production for the Leeds-based Off the Middle company starts chattily enough, with the pair draping themselves across fancy chairs like a rat pack amour in waiting. As the pair flit between past, present and inevitable futures, however, each bar-room anecdote becomes increasingly less rose-tinted.
There is something oddly reminiscent of mid-period Pinter here in the play’s depiction of old times. But when Jane relates with painful matter of factness the grim but simple solution she considered in dealing with her problems, it is one of many heart-breaking moments in a show full of snapshots like this.
With an ageing population having put Alzheimer’s disease squarely on both the civic and the dramatic agenda some years back, Seager’s take on things is shot through with intimacy and warmth. These would be enough by themselves to evoke a state of everyday tragedy we will all have to square up to in some form at some point.
It is an over-riding playfulness that is laced through the first half of the play’s seventy-five minutes, however, that lends things as surprising lightness. As Seager and Hardie capture the full youthful glory of all those golden moments that define Arthur and Jane, only to have them robbed from under them, their life-long love affair becomes a still cherished if unreliable memoir.
The Herald, March 7th 2019