By John Doyle
Directed by Sarah Goodes
Sydney Theatre Company and State Theatre of South Australia
Drama Theatre Sydney Opera House
If, like me, you have been a fan of John Doyle as rampaging Roy Slaven and as a writer of great television you will be delighted his second play is now on at the Drama Theatre. He is proving to be one of our very best writers.
In this moving and funny play he tells the story of Vere (Paul Blackwell), a professor who has just been given the opportunity to travel, to be part of and to see The Higgs Boson experiment.
The play opens with his end of year lecture and when he returns to his staffroom he is informed that he has early onset Alzheimer’s.
In the first act we meet the faculty as they gather to wish him luck on his trip. Except for one colleague he tells toward the end of the act we know something they don’t which puts a very human veil over the proceedings.
But it is in the second act, set a few weeks later, that the play takes off. We are in the home of his children who are about to throw a dinner party and meet the parents of the girl to whom the son is engaged.
By now the dementia has taken hold and Vere is incontinent but still planning his trip. He is also prone to extremes in temperament, levels of understanding and memory.
The dinner party descends into sheer farce as the girls' parents are a minister of religion and his fundamentalist wife and Vere challenges them on their beliefs. This tests the already frazzled patience of the family who Vere is now confusing with his work colleagues.
I found this wonderful play highly enjoyable and also challenging as my mother had Alzheimer’s for 10 years before she died. But it is also a wonderful riff on many issues facing the world today and it is done in a very humane way.
I hope Doyle continues to write for the theatre as well as TV.