Visitors at the Bush
Visitors is a stunning debut from the playwright Barney Norris. It is the beautiful, unbelievably moving story of love and time. The play is set at the edge of Salisbury Plain in a modest farmhouse in which Edie (Linda Basset) and Arthur (Robin Soans) have lived their entire marriage. They are now in their early 70s and have reached a turning point, brought on by the sad onset of early dementia in Edie. The cruel fate of dementia calls for care that Arthur, who still works the farm, nor their son Stephen (Simon Muller) can provide, so they enlist the help of the young caregiver Kate (Eleanor Wyld).
The play takes a look at the passing of life and whether is it is possible to ever be happy with its outcome. Edie and Arthur are at the end and can only look back; their lives are slowly slipping away and there is very little but death before them. Then there’s their 40-something son Stephen, in the middle, a modern man whose life is very much the opposite of his parents’. He has fought against becoming them, something almost everyone does, and so went into life insurance rather than agriculture. Then there is the young caregiver Kate who is in her early 20s and at the beginning. She has her whole life ahead of her but she is running away from it, unsure and somewhat frightened of what that life may be.
What makes a life truly valuable? In this play, Norris makes it clear that is not monetary gain or career success, but love. It is the love that deeply connects Edie and Arthur, the memories they have shared and the way in which neither can imagine their lives without the other, that is the true value. The farm and all the material objects around them can go, but no matter what they have each other.
The acting is superb across the board, but it is Linda Basset as Edie who is truly mesmerising. It is not a role that commands power but one that Basset tenderly evokes, and the audience becomes deeply affected as they watch her slow decline. The writing is brilliant; funny and moving, even poetic at times.
This play is a triumph. A quietly powerful and truly beautiful story of love from Norris that reminds us that everyone is a mere visitor in this world, and in the end it is the people that matter, those with whom life is shared.
Visitors is on at Bush Theatre until 10th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.