Brainville at Night returns four years after its run at London’s the Old Red Lion, again under the direction of the Hope Theatre’s Matthew Parker. Produced by the care-home orientated theatre group The Dot Collective, it comes to The Warren at Brighton Fringe during Dementia Action Week.
Written by Alexander Moschos, himself a former carer, the play portrays the life of Sven and his wife Ingrid, who has frontotemporal dementia. From the domestic setting of the couple’s family home, the everyday reality of a dementia sufferer and their loved ones is juxtaposed with that of Ingrid’s inner life, her rich and joyous interior world.
This is a well composed piece with strong, convincing performances from the whole cast. Illona Linthwaite brings empathy and warmth to Ingrid as she balances the “somewhere in between” (as her character comments) of being there and yet not there. Her facial expressions shift from expressive engagement to distant blankness in the blink of an eye.
This fluidity is the driving theme of Brainville at Night, as both the set and the actors move and morph between timeframes and characters. The liquidity of this movement speaks of the subjective experiences of life and love as a kind of subterranean or underwater landscape that runs parallel to present time.
But this is not just a play about parallel times, it is also one of parallel stories; one is a narrative of loss, of decline, and of forgetting. The other is a love story, a preserved dream. Sophie Dora-Hall’s performance in her dual roles of ‘Girl’ and ‘Maria’ offer both romanticism and poignancy to this story, as does – in a different way – Carys Wright’s portrayal of Sven and Ingrid’s daughter.
For the most part, the double-story mechanism is handled well, and the thematic meeting of natural and magical, mortal and mythical is inventive and heartfelt. However, the subplots felt a little crowded and unclear. The complexity and conflict of the characters and their backstories seemed as if they were either pared down too much or not enough.
That said, this is a play about diving into a world beyond the here and now. And this world is invariably complicated, murky and swarming with stories that don’t always add up. It is a world of feeling rather than facts, and it is indeed this sentiment that makes Brainville at Night such an affecting and enjoyable show.
Brainville at Night runs at The Warren until 23rd May 2018.