Reviewed by: Mary Woodward
Joy is 83, and showing signs of dementia: she is firmly attached to her handbag and her hankie, and becomes visibly disturbed if she is parted from either. Her daughter who comes to visit her has no patience with her: it’s her grandson, Danny – a typical Yoof – who shows signs of affection, bringing her a card and helping her get it the right way round to read. Joy wanders off and is found in the street – she is helped home and put to bed, but falls when she tries to reach her handbag which has been ‘helpfully’ put on the floor where she can’t reach it: she ends up in hospital, where some staff are sympathetic and others – in particular the doctor – keep trying to make her behave the way they think she should. She needs a scan: the noises and lights scare her – she thinks she is back in the Blitz in World War Two. We begin to see how her seemingly erratic behavior is caused by her wandering between the different parts of her life. Her daughter wants her to stay in the hospital; Danny wants her to go back home, and offers to look after her – which changes both him and, ultimately, his mother, Joy’s daughter.
Vamos Theatre Company is one of the UK’s leading full-mask professional theatre groups: they tour shows that are appropriate for deaf and hearing people alike. They are superb – subtle movements and gestures convey a rounded character in a second. There are so many lovely moments: Danny wiggling his fingers at one end of his gran’s cardi sleeve to get her to put her arm through it; Danny coming in with a dog puppet after he discovers old film footage of Joy and her daughter playing with a dog on the beach; Danny and Joy blaming the ‘dog’ when her daughter comes in and finds them throwing bread about, feeding the invisible ducks… The characters, both major and minor, are keenly observed and lovingly portrayed, and the past and present are cleverly interwoven, with sounds and music triggering memories of Joy’s past and slowly revealing her history – not just a little old lady who is becoming ‘difficult’ but a living, loving human being who adored dancing with the man who became her husband. The actors are extremely talented: the revelation of their actual ages when they removed their masks at the final curtain further confirmed of their ability.
This is a brilliant, must-see show, which at various points moved me to tears: the audience rightly gave it a standing ovation. It’s only on till 14th – don’t miss it!