Still Alice (4 stars)

Still Alice

credit: Geraint Lewis

Beautiful production deals in an academic's experience of early-onset Alzheimer's disease

'I wish I had cancer', Alice Howland sighs, 'as it would give me something to fight'. When out running one day and losing her direction home, the fifty-year-old Harvard professor of linguistics realises something is very wrong with her. And when it transpires that she has early-onset Alzheimer's, she and her family must try to cope.

Christine Mary Dunford's deeply moving and sensitive stage adaptation of Lisa Genova's novel is not an easy watch, and nor should it be. It seeks to address how much protection families can ultimately offer each other in the face of such a debilitating illness.

Sharon Small, with her open, expressive face, brings enormous warmth and pathos to Alice, while the device of having Eva Pope onstage beside her as the voice of her conscience, as she struggles to piece together daily routines and names, is a well-judged addition, bringing wit and tenderness, initially trying to lie to her loved ones, so as not to concern them.

The infantilism of Alice from slightly condescending, if well-meaning husband John (Martin Marquez) and battles with her strong-willed actor daughter Lydia (Ruth Ollman) as the condition deteriorates over three years, mean it's never mired in sentimental storytelling.

And as pieces of furniture from Jonathan Fensom's cosy homestead set shift and disappear altogether, they are an effective representation of the failure of Alice's functioning brain signals. It's a quietly devastating production of intelligence, insight and great delicacy from director David Grindley.

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 17 Nov, then touring.

Still Alice

Theatrical adaptation of Lisa Genova's best-selling novel about a university professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer's.

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