Theatre review: Descent (4 stars)

Theatre review: Descent

Heartbreaking drama exploring the effects of dementia

Linda Duncan McLaughlin's captivating new play, a co-production between Oran Mor, the Traverse Theatre and Luminate, has an initial lightness of touch which ultimately becomes devastating.

Rob (Barrie Hunter) is an architect: order is imperative to how he lives. But lately he has been losing his place, even forgetting the year England won the World Cup when he is playing Trivial Pursuit. He ends up lost one day after a visit to a mall and is discovered wandering along the dual carriageway: his headstrong daughter Nicola (Fiona MacNeil) decides his wife Cathy (Wendy Seager) should get a diagnosis for him, as well as proper round the clock care. But Cathy doesn't want to ever let go, even when her husband turns violent: to let go would mean giving up altogether.

With a brilliant cast and lyrical script by McLaughlin, there is a defiant swerve away from sentimentality, issue- based drama cliches or easy resolution. It is not a comfortable experience, but a powerful one which brims with insights and profound emotional depth. The likeable nature and gallows humour of this ordinary, loving family is rendered all the more upsetting, as it foreshadows the damage to three lives. Their voices overlap and the living room becomes like a confessional, a safe space to talk freely. Hunter's performance is incredible, matched equally by the others under Allie Butler's swift direction – brutal when the rhythms of marriage are fragmented by 'a glitch', and love is simply not enough anymore.

Oran Mor, Glasgow, Thu 15–Sat 17 Oct; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 20–Sat 24 Oct.


Drama about a couple's struggle to hold on to each other in the face of dementia. Written by Linda Duncan McLaughlin, directed by Alice Butler.


1. graham leadbitter17 Oct 2015, 8:00am Report

Looking forward to this!

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