Alice Howland is stubborn, clever and driven – a professional at the top of her game. But, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50, she is compelled to confront her new reality and draw on her resilience to remain independent for as long as possible.
Alice strives to remain true to the woman she has always been, while relationships shift within her family, in her work and most importantly with herself. Uncompromising yet tender, this new adaptation of the award-winning novel truthfully acknowledges life with a progressive disease – its conflicts and burden, and its small, priceless victories.
Featuring Scottish actress Sharon Small as Alice, this play is a unique insight into the experience of a woman fighting to maintain her identity as her world changes.
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Sharon Small gives an outstanding performance in Still Alice at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh. She portrays the three-year journey of Alice, a 50-year-old woman living with young-onset dementia in a powerful and moving manner. Small skilfully displays the development of the disease by using subtle hints of memory loss, which are swiftly followed by more extreme, shocking instances that highlight the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s.
The supporting cast playing Alice’s family convincingly capture different responses to the situation. They offer a variety of believable and often relatable reactions that affect and change the relationship within the family. From Martin Marquez’ depiction of a secretly terrified and sometimes impatient husband, to Ruth Ollman’s Lydia, the distant daughter who has a keener perception as an outsider, the audience is forced to observe the characters’ actions and question how they would behave in the same scenario.
The additional character of ‘herself’ in the play, who is based on Alice’s inner-thoughts, is played brilliantly by Eva Pope. She perfectly captures the words and emotions that cannot be expressed out loud. The inclusion of this character is a clever and creative way to express how Alice sees herself and how this relationship becomes a desperate attempt to remember her own identity. The dialogue between the actresses is the source of much of the comedy in the play, as well as the depicting the biggest tragedy of the disease – the eventual outcome of losing your sense of self. Small and Pope’s performances succeed in emphasising the message of the story that support should not just be there for those who are helping loved-ones with the disease, but also for those who actually have the disease themselves.
Subtle yet innovative staging, costume and hairstyling are used as visual accompaniments to support Small’s portrayal of how dementia changes a person’s perception of the world surrounding them. Small details such as Small’s hairstyle becoming progressively less organised reflect the character’s struggle to resist the illness while it slowly takes hold of her. Through the use of these small, creative details, the play is largely told in a straight-forward way that allows the audience to focus primarily on the reality of story rather than being swept up in a spectacle.
The director and cast received support from consultant Wendy Mitchell, whose experience of living with young-onset dementia provided authenticity to the story, and this is particularly apparent during a scene where Alice speaks directly about how it feels to have dementia. The speech is informative and, although it is a sad and inevitable reality, Small manages to bring hope to the character, expressing the wish that, even though she shall forget, her message will be remembered by others.
Still Alice is an important and educational play that will move audiences and encourage a deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. It is extremely well performed by the leads and its powerful message will stay with you long after the curtain falls.
Review by Kim Ford for Love Books Group
| Booking Information |
TUE 25 SEP TO SAT 29 SEP
Evenings 7.30pm | Matinees Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Running time (approx.): 1 hour 30 minutes
BOX OFFICE: 0131 529 6000
13-17 November, Theatre Royal Glasgow