Gail Young’s Bothered and Bewildered that was first performed in Chester 2014 has its Scottish premiere this May in The Capital thanks to Edinburgh People’s Theatre.
Widow Irene (Val Lennie) is becoming confused and showing signs of dementia. Her remaining all- female family of two daughters, Beth (Anne McKenzie) and Louise (Lynn Cameron) and granddaughter Shelley (Katie Johnston) see her go through the various stages of the tragedy that is Alzheimer’s Disease while they deal with the shifting and frightening situations as they each see fit. Her therapeutic writing of a memory book starts to be coloured by Irene’s reading taste of past years in the form of the spectre of Barbara Cartland (Bev Wright) whose ‘presence’ draws out secrets from a life before the one her family knows.
The inclusion of the larger than life character that was Cartland is a device to trigger Irene’s memories and Bev Wright captures the outré vision in pink with her singular world view well. However, rather than being ghostly, the prolific writer’s spirit is a dominant and surreal figure in the piece that overshadows the sadness of the family’s real time struggle.
This is a story that is laden with poignancy and pain as a person loses the veneer of respectability to expose the raw truth of what lies beneath. The tin foiled mirrors that form part of the set’s backdrop could stand for lack of ability to see yourself reflected there anymore; just a crumpled confused image that is indeed bewildering. Sadly, the odd sexual references along with Irene’s uncharacteristic swearing induced some unwarranted Morningside gasps and giggles so evoking more laughter than tears at this important subject that is pertinent to most folk in some form or another.
This rather stilted and protracted production has some laboured and clichéd lines with some suspension of disbelief required when hearing the disparity in accents between the mother and her daughters. Not everyone can be Fred and Ginger, but it’s a pity that the lights of giant mirrorball that create a starry sky across the auditorium outshine the skill of the dancers when Irene’s secret past is being briefly re-enacted side stage.
This is a brave look at a difficult and topical subject but 2 hours is a long time to be bothered and bewildered.
25th – 27th May 2015 at 7.30pm and 28th May at 2.30pm.
Tickets, priced at £12 and £10 (concession), or £8.50 (group rate each for parties of 10+)