United Kingdom Contributing Critic
Currently playing at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre is Still Alice, which brings the issues of living with Alzheimer's disease to stage. It follows the life of Alice Howland, her husband John, and their two children. It follows the destruction this disease causes, how it impacts the families of those who have to suffer losing precious memories of loved one's names and the life they once led.
Sharon Small gives a raw and stunning portrayal as Alice. The character development shown is devastating to the audience. Alice’s deterioration is explained very clearly, even though the audience is shown the time scale, even just through Sharon’s choice of movement or the pace of her voice, it portrays to the audience Alice’s condition has worsened. The audience also become instantly attached to this character due to how relatable she is to us, which makes the development of this play even more of a blow to the audience members. Sharon as Alice is one of the best performances you will see in the touring theatre in the UK this year.
Eva Pope brings honesty and energy into her superb portrayal of Alice’s mind/inner thoughts. This character works as an insight into the mind of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The character also partly worked as a narrator. Eva’s portrayal of this slightly different character is remarkable, the realism and detail in her performance are flawless. Eva spends most the time on stage and is always reacting honestly to the issues unfolding in front of her, with using the unfiltered dialogue appropriately, or through gestures and facial expressions. When there is no dialogue for this character, Eva’s energy and power as an actress help supply a presence to help emphasize that Alice’s mind is always there no matter how ill Alice is.
Martin Marquez plays John Howland, husband to Alice. Martin’s portrayal of John is exceptional, the characterization is so believable and just gives the audience a sense of realism. The dialogue and the emotion flow so naturally that the suffering of John watching Alice deteriorates perhaps resonates with the audience the most, purely because of Martin’s performance.
Mark Armstrong as Thomas Howland and Ruth Ollman as Lydia Howland portray the horrific struggle of the switch from son/daughter to carer with such humanity. There is no falseness in either of their portrayals, the real connection to both characters and the belief in the family’s relationship helps make the audience more devastated for the issues these two characters face.
Micah Balfour and Anna Andresen both gave tense performances as Dr. Davis and Dr. Tamara, they helped the audience understand the process of diagnosis and treatment. The actors performed this in a less dramatized way which is appropriate for the characters, as it meant it kept the naturalism and didn’t over-dramatize the diagnosis scene.
This piece was initially written as a novel by Lisa Genova, it was then turned into a film starring Julianne Moore, and now it has been transformed into a play by Christine Mary Dunford. It is definitely apparent, shown by this production, that this story was meant for the theatre. David Grindley directs this play in the right direction by keeping the naturalism, not overdramatizing the performance, and letting the actor’s raw performances speak for the devastation of Alzheimer's disease.
This play tells the audience a story which affects many people within our country. This production amplifies the emotions you felt viewing the motion picture and even gives you a more realistic stance. A story performed with such realism is rarely seen on tour within the UK, especially with such outstanding performances. Still Alice is a 5/5 star production, audiences up and down the UK will be touched by the story of Alice Howland.