Poignant Yet Chirpy Comedy On Dementia At The Chiswick Playhouse

Susan Stanley-Carroll reviews Paradise Lodge

Chiswick Events

The Chiswick Playhouse, Bath Road, Chiswick, W4 1LW

Friday 11 October – Thursday 24 October

Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm

Running Time 70 minutes

Box Office Tickets are available price £20 or £17

Readers get a discount if you mention ChiswickW4 when you book tickets

Box Office number: 020 8995 603

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‘Paradise Lodge’, now running at the recently renamed Tabard Theatre (Chiswick Playhouse) is a poignant yet chirpy comedy that makes you reflect on dementia, that silent, imperceptible disease of the mind.

The play, skilfully directed by Richard Oliver and written by Steve Cooper, is inspired by Cooper’s real life experience as the full-time carer for his mother-in-law when she was living with dementia.

The absorbing bittersweet script is a compassionate insight into an, as yet, incurable disease. However, a galaxy of jolly WW2 songs lift and lighten the grim message that is delivered with sensitivity and understanding.

The jaunty duo of actors, Eric (Steve Cooper} and Kylie (Sophie Osborne), perform as the Doodle Bugs, entertaining the residents of the care home. And the audience are not there just to watch but are morphed into being the paying guests in the ‘Paradise Lodge’ care home!

In case you are squeamish of ‘audience interaction’, the involvement of the audience is minimal except for a sing-song and the response, of the audience, on the night I attended was very inhibited!

Steve Cooper’s vintage charm is beguiling as he and Sophie smoothly sashay from song to song - they both twinkle with charm and charisma. Their songs include “Wish Me Luck When You Wave me Goodbye” “The White Cliffs of Dover” “Blue Heaven” and even a snippet from Beyonce.

Steve and Sophie create, on the turn of a sixpence, a galaxy of at least ten characters. In a cleverly inserted flashback we witness Steve as crusty Ron who is on the cusp of dementia. Ron gradually crumbles and is moved reluctantly into Paradise Lodge.

Sophie confidently changes from cute and perky Kylie, to poignant Violet, who is aware that her world is fading fast until she is swallowed into oblivion. However, chippy cute Kylie has a smile that hits the audience like a beam of bright sunlight. And her gutsy instant changes of character captivated the audience on the night I watched the show.

The back chat that linked the two protagonists was a tad overdone and didn’t add much to a script that was, on the whole, innovative and thought-provoking.

Many of us will have family or friends who have been diagnosed with dementia, or, indeed, will fear of it for our own futures. Watching this play is a positive way to become more aware of the disease and its consequences.

‘Paradise Lodge’ was a huge success at this year’s Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival; The Scotsman said it was ‘astonishingly well observed’.

It has attracted a good audience at the Chiswick Playhouse - many of whom have enjoyed an after-show tipple or two in the adjacent friendly Tabard pub.

Susan Stanley-Carroll

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October 21, 2019

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