Still Alice was a debut novel written by Lisa Genova in 2007. The book went on to be adapted for film and in 2014 Julianne Moore went on to win an Oscar, for her performance as Alice on the screen. However, a year before the film was made, the story was adapted for stage by Christine Mary Dunford and that is the version that is currently touring the UK, making a stop this week at The Lyceum.
This is a serious piece of theatre looking at the morose but common disease, alzheimer’s.
We meet Alice (Sharon Small), a once successful professor at Harvard. At the start of the time line in March 2015 we see Alice starting to be generally forgetful and she wonders if she is on the menopausal track. After visiting her doctor and a number of tests being carried out she is diagnosed with early onset alzheimers. We then follow her over the next three years to the present day and watch the disease develop, destroy and take over her being entirely.
The audience gets to hear Alices’ most intimate thoughts as alongside Alice on stage at all times is actress Eva Pope, playing ‘herself’. ‘Herself’ is Alices’ mind. This is a really suitable, needed touch and one that without it, the audience would be much less savvy to what is actually happening to the brain, in someone with alzheimer’s. This makes the piece educational and informative, encouraging the audience to really engage with what it must be like to live with this cruel disease.
An insight in to family life with a family member with alzheimers is a large chunk of this tale. It shows the frustrations and conflicts between loved ones and highlights issues within the family unit. The scene where the son and daughter (Lydia and Thomas) are debating on how they should handle their mother is a familiar issue when it comes to this disease. Many families are not educated enough to be able to provide adequate support and provide a consistent role to the ones that need them the most.
Sharon Small is a great actress, with TV under her belt like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. She also provides a steely performance during this show as do the rest of the cast. The actors are all giving it their everything and not a weak performance in sight…so why is this show somewhat underwhelming? Maybe it could be the fact that the sound was an issue, especially at the beginning; coughs from the audience were drowning out the actors.
Or maybe it lacked a certain amount of emotion in places. Either way, there was a disappointing amount of applause from the auditorium at the Lyceum.