Photo by Tim Matheson
The evening started with embarrassment because the paucity of volunteers meant we sat in the wrong seats. We missed the usual friendly retinue of Richmond retirees manning the stairs and entrances.
Once everyone was settled in the correct seats, things went swimmingly. This kerfuffle perhaps gave us more compassion for a man living with dementia in a world that has become far too confusing for him.
Tragedy plus time is humour, they say, and when the topic is dementia that can be true, but there are few laughs when you’re in the thick of it.
Mounted by the Ruby Slippers troop—with Gateway Theatre—this production of “You Will Remember Me” written by Francois Archambault and translated by Bobby Theodore shows the reality that it’s a whole family who lives with dementia when one person’s memory starts to go.
While it was difficult to hear the dialogue for the first few minutes of the play when the characters spoke cross stage to each other, that soon resolved and everything was clear and absorbing.
The emotions were clear too because of the quality of the acting under Diane Brown’s direction.
Kevin McNulty as Edouard, the retired philandering university professor who is bewildered by the world, repeatedly claims he has a very good memory as dementia alters all the lives in the story.
As his wife, Madeleine, Patti Allan sharply portrays the love, frustration and utter fatigue of caring for her husband.
Marci T. House as Isabelle, the adult daughter trying to forge a career and life, copes with the imposition of her father’s presence in her life as well as possible.
It is an imperfect arrangement when mom drops off dad, permanently, with her daughter. In the end, it’s the daughter’s partner and eventually his teenaged daughter, wonderfully played by Sereana Malani, who bonds and cares for the professor as his sentience fades.
They learn to stop re-orienting the professor, instead working with the images and reality he knows.
The set, the sound scape and the direction all worked together to make this a strong production. The shame is that it will not run longer so more Richmondites can see it. When we asked about enticing a younger audience, the student discount price of $29 per ticket still leaves it too costly—being three hours’ wages—to hope for a younger demographic when they can buy a coupon for movie admissions, sodas and popcorn for two at the same cost.
So, as we learned that everyone has to cope, from the person losing their cognitive functions to the spouse, the daughter and the people in their lives, the audience laughed but there were also many knowing nods. A solid evening of pathos and humour.