The Other Place at Park Theatre
American playwright Sharr White’s The Other Place is directed by Claire van Kampen and tells the tale of Juliana Smithton (Karen Archer), a highly successful 61-year old neurologist, in the midst of early onset dementia.
“The first glimpse of it comes on Friday,” it begins. Juliana has been researching medicine all her adult life, attempting to prevent the diseases of neurones. While presenting a lecture on her latest medical research in a hotel in St Thomas, she suffers what she refers to as “an episode”, while simultaneously experiencing disassociation. Juliana shifts from conversing with the hospital nurse (Eliza Collings) to her husband Ian (Neil McCaul) to presenting her findings to the audience with a repeated call of “Next”, all the while narrating her tale. During these monologues and dialogues, we get an intimate and detailed account of her personal experiences.
Haughty and confident, Juliana believes she and Ian are in the process of a divorce, but it is unclear if this is true; Ian behaves very lovingly toward her while she argues and accuses him recurrently of extramarital affairs. Through the unravelling story, we are taken to the past of the couple’s life with their teenage daughter, Laurel, in Cape Cod, at a house referred to as the Other Place. The story causes the audience to question what is real and what is illusion, through the use of black out scenes and the sound of loud crashing waves.
Apart from a minor error in one of Juliana’s dialogues, the piece is faultlessly executed, even in the small part played by actor Rupinder Nagra as Richard, Laurel’s husband. Though presenting a serious and challenging subject, White incorporates humour, producing a very humane piece where we become invested in Juliana’s memories and confusions, in her determination to understand as she struggles to make sense of her changing world, searching for lost vocabulary and gaps in her memory.
With intense performances by Archer and McCaul, alongside a worthy multi-character portrayal by Collings, The Other Place is a complex and timely piece about the effects of dementia, on both the sufferer and their families.
Photo: Mark Douet
The Other Place is at Park Theatre from 19th September until 20th October 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.