We at Onin London are always excited to attend the Park Theatre’s newest productions. They are thought-provoking and often relevant to dialogues occurring in the real world. Their newest production, and hence UK premiere of The Other Place, is no exception.
It starts with confident, intelligent and highly successful neurologist Julianna Smithton giving a lecture. In a series of flash forwards and one flash back we see her professional and personal life unravel. Her husband is seeking a divorce (or is he?) and she has renewed her relationship with her estranged daughter (or has she?). We journey with Julianna as she recognises she is experiencing a health crisis and her denial and rage at the diagnosis of dementia.
With an ageing population, we as a society are becoming more aware of dementia in all its forms. The Other Place examines dementia in a compassionate way, whilst exploring the impact on self-worth, self-identity (both personally and professionally), family dynamics, relationships, love and loss. In this way it reminds me of Lisa Genova’s ‘Still Alice’ about early on-set dementia. The Other Place forces us to reflect on the question ‘how much can you lose, if you can’t find yourself?’
The title itself has a number of meanings. First and most obvious is the physical other place- the family’s Cape Cod beach house, affectionately called The Other Place. Secondly, it makes allusion to the mind’s erratic nature. Often the mind will protect us and take us to another place as a coping mechanism. Thirdly, it alludes to the other places (literally and figuratively) we may have journeyed to in life had we made or not made certain decisions that impacted our lives.
Karen Archer stars as the sixty-one year old Juliana. Her performance was superb- from a confident professional, to an angry and distraught mother and wife, to someone just hoping to find her identity, both past and present. She was mesmerising and I for one could have continued watching her. Having a leading role for an older woman is something of a rarity (though fortunately becoming less so) and it is important to remember that their place in society and their stories and voices are important. Archer was able to portray the vulnerability in this strong, professional woman as well as the fear and disorientation.
She was supported by Neil McCaul as Ian, Juliana’s often exasperated husband. Eliza Collings and Rupinder Nagra play The Woman and The Man, though in fact they play a number of characters in Juliana’s past and present.
At approximately 80 minutes long with no interval, the flow and pace of the narrative was excellent. It kept me intrigued and left me wanting to know more about the characters. Some questions remained unanswered which kept me thinking about what could have happened long after the curtain fell. Though the ending did feel rather light hearted and positive.
An extremely minimalist set was used. A lonely chair moved around to depict setting and time was the only prop for a number of scenes. The plush cream carpet hints at the the successful professional, while the doors opening that take us to the flashbacks/flash-forwards allude to the brain and memory. The narrative works well on such a set as the audience is able to project their imagination while going on this vulnerable journey through the power of words. At one point the lights go off, and you hear the loud crashing of waves. You could feel the anticipation in the room, eagerly awaiting to see what happens next.
Park Theatre and Theatre by the Lake have co-produced The Other Place in association with Abjnger Productions. Production was supported by Park Theatre’s Producers Circle. The Other Place is written by Sharr White and direcred by Claire van Kampen whose play Farinelli and the King was nominated for Olivier and Tony Awards.
The Other Place is performing until 20th October 2018. Evening performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 19:30 and matinees are on Thursdays and Sundays at 15:00. There is a captioned performance on 12 October at 19:30. There is a Parents and Babies performance on Thursday 18 October at 13:00 for £15.
Standard ticket prices range from £18.50-£32.50. Concessions range from £16.50-£23.50. Children under 16 are able to have tickets ranging between £15-£20. If you are going in a group, the 11th ticket is free.
Address: Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP
Phone: 020 7870 6876
Written by Caitlin Neal