City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Spillikin - A Love Story, Pleasance Dome, Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 23 August 2015

Spillikin- A Love Story (Photo credit Jane Hobson)
Show details
Pleasance Dome
Pipeline Theatre Company
Running time: 
Jon Welch (director / writer / sound designer), Alan Munden and Jude Munden (co-designers), Will Jackson (robot maker).
Helen Ryan (Sally), Anna Munden (young Sally), Michael Tonkin-Jones (Raymond), Alan Munden (Jonas), Robothespian (robot).

The human design has flaws. Hearts break, memory fades, bodies fail and ultimately nothing lasts infinitely.

In her book-lined home elderly Sally is meeting a new companion, a robot built for her by her husband, Raymond and programmed with his memories. Sally’s memory is like a ... you know what? Even the post-it notes stuck to the shelves have started to lose their meaning.

The one thing that she remembers, the last thing that she will forget, is their wedding - an impossibly young couple holding a rebellious reception in a Wimpy Bar.

In flashback we see the first meeting of the young couple. She a facetious, fiery girl who finds life unutterably boring and has no direction other than wanting to be punk icon Debbie Harry. He a socially inadequate “braniac” who puts his energy into building simple robots.

“How are you feeling Sally?” asks the robot, distracting her from fretting about things that she has lost - the phone, the date. And she can’t find Raymond.

As the seasons pass her relationship with the robot changes, it starts to become Raymond, now talking about “our” wedding but she is unravelling, fracturing, frustrated that the words are running away from her. Behind her the books on the shelves seem to thin. As she recalls more of the scenes from their former life we can witness Alzheimer’s disease stripping away her self-worth, projecting her adolescent insecurities as a quitter, a dummkopf , not worthy of her mad inventor husband.

Whilst it remains a romantic tale there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with a childless marriage that might not have been perfect. While she recognises the robot as an imposter, who is she directing the invective at when she declares “him” cold?

In the end its an astonishing piece of theatre that allows a box of blinking lights and whirring gears to move us fallible humans to tears.

This cleverly written piece brings added depth and a clear understanding of the stages of dementia to what could be a fairly simple love story. Great performances and high quality staging and design (including projections and of course the robot) make this a production to remember.

Show Times: 5 to 31 (not 12, 24) August 2015 at 5.10pm.

Ticket Prices: £7.50 (£6.50) to £10.00 (£9.00).

Suitability: 12+