We sit and listen to Alice (Amanda Reed) and Mandy (Julie Binysh), feeling the dulcet tones of twee Northern conversation wash over us. In One Last Waltz, Luke Adamson captures the day to day prattle and pace of a huge percentage of upbringings and existences.

Alice chats about her death without blinking an eye, a matter-of-fact style that goes hand in hand with inane ramblings about the last memorable holiday to Blackpool. For those that grew up in such tight-knit families, with Nana living down the road and regular Sunday roasts round at someone’s house, it’s a pleasant stroll down memory lane.

But One Last Waltz is about more than this style of cyclic dialogue, the one where you chat about Elsie down the road multiple times in one visit. It’s about watching a loved one slowly slipping away without them even realising. Alzheimer’s is one of those creeping diseases, a spectre that sits on your shoulder and gradually sucks out your soul, leaving you a husk of your former self. And it’s happening more and more often in our growing elderly population. Alice thinks she’s just getting forgetful, but Mandy notices and worries – she wrings her hands and appears more and more distressed with every passing moment, fearing as her mother’s memory and essence gradually fades away.

One Last Waltz Greenwich Theatre

Julie Binysh

There’s an underlying sense of foreboding in Adamson’s work, percolating through the writing and direction. One Last Waltz never quite reaches a truly emotional climax, but it does colour every scene with an inevitable pathos. Like the boxes that make up the set, some moments are full of memories while others appear blank – ones that used to be there and are now lost to the disease. Each scene unpacks a new piece of the past yet leaves the present null and void.

As the protagonist Alice, Reed’s performance is full of slips in conversation that leave many scenes stalling. It may be intentional, but the uneven conversational metre is enough to put us all on edge, unsure as to whether we are experiencing momentary losses of character or an intentional progression of the illness within the story. However, Reed and Binysh’s mother-daughter relationship is cemented and endearing, the connection evident in both loving exchanges and frayed tempers. The altercation between Binysh and hotel owner Georgette (Julia Faulkner), and subsequent worry over Alice’s disappearance, are some of the strongest scenes within the show – they provide the tension that bubbles through much of the remaining production but is never quite realised. We end on the final dance itself, a tender and sweet moment that caps off a pleasant production nicely.

One Last Waltz Greenwich Theatre

The overall issue with One Last Waltz is that it lacks the drive and flow needed to keep our engagement throughout. It’s difficult to put together a show strong enough to intentionally stumble and stall while still taking its audience along for the ride. One Last Waltz doesn’t have the elements that stand up to such a challenge. Everything is well intentioned, but it’s as hit and miss as the boxes that make up its backdrop – some hold the reminder of a time gone by, others are full of emptiness.

 

 

★★★☆☆

One Last Waltz runs at Greenwich Theatre until 17 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.