Many of us will have had some experience of a loved one contracting Alzheimer’s or dementia and of the subsequent evanescence of personality and the dissipation of a presence that once played a large part in our own lives. Tragic and deeply sad enough in someone who is approaching the natural end of their days, we can only imagine what this might be like for one still in the prime of life, not to mention for those around and close to them who must endure the slow premature declension of a loved one.
Mr Mann’s wife – Jill Daum – is a playwright and her instinctive reaction to finding herself in this grievous position (with her husband’s full support, I should add) was to give in to her subconscious urge to allow the play that she was currently engaged in writing to morph into an examination of what it is like to find oneself in such a situation. The world premier of this brave piece – ‘Forget About Tomorrow’ – took place recently at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria and The Girl and I were present at last Sunday’s performance.
One might fear that such sombre subject matter would result in a worthy but grim night in the stalls, but Ms Daum is – thankfully – a far better playwright than that. She successfully locates (and subsequently mines auspiciously) the emotional motherlode that most writers spend their lives seeking – producing in the process a piece that can move an audience to tears one moment only to have them rolling in the aisles laughing but a few seconds later. The payload of the play is delivered all the more effectively for this skillful balancing act and the audience reaction at the close left no doubts that the target had been well and truly straddled.
Plaudits of course to Ms Daum and to Mr Mann (who contributed two songs – which may well be his last – to the enterprise) as well as to Michael Shamata, who directed with the most assured of touches, and to Jennifer Lines and Craig Erickson who play skillfully and truthfully Daum and Mann’s alter-egos – Jane and Tom. Excellence all round…
For me, however, the highlight was quite possibly the creation of Lori – Jane’s larger than life (how Canadian!) boss – played with considerable panache and dry, dry humour by the splendid Colleen Wheeler. Not only is Lori the source of much of the humour in the piece but she also manages to act as a very necessary counterweight to the emotional drama elsewhere – standing up for the everyman (everyperson?) who represents us in the face of others’ tragedies.
Following a couple of shaky seasons (in our humble opinion) the Belfry has landed three from three thus far this year.
Fight for a ticket!