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Finding Joy at the Marlowe

Finding Joy at the Marlowe
Photo Credit: Vamos Theatre

Photo Credit: Vamos Theatre

Dan English finds joy at the Marlowe with the Vamos Theatre’s touring production of Finding Joy.

Vamos Theatre returned to Canterbury’s Marlowe Studio this week, and brought with them their fantastic Finding Joy production.

The company are quickly cementing its position as one of, if not the, leading full-mask mime companies in existence. Considering how marvellous this show is, it is fair to say that the company won’t be knocked off their perch just yet.

Finding Joy, in layman’s terms, deals with issues surrounding and including dementia, but the show is much more than that. It is a sensitive and remarkable look into the effects of dementia, both on the sufferer and on their family, without attempting to promote a form of political agenda about the subject.

The play tells the story of Joy, who struggles to battle her illness in a world that becomes ever-increasingly scarier and confusing as she deteriorates. As her condition worsens, she finds comfort not in her daughter, who is hard and seemingly struggling to cope with the situation, but in her unruly grandson, portrayed as a typical teen with bum-swinging jeans to match.

Photo Credit: Vamos Theatre

Photo Credit: Vamos Theatre

As their relationship and bond increases, we explore Joy’s life through her experiences as a wartime evacuee, finding love and becoming a mother. But this isn’t a sweet smelling performance, as the difficulties and frustrations both parties feel as a result of Joy’s dementia is shown throughout.

Joy and her grandson bring the best out in each other, through their playful interactions, as well as their touching moments; a particular warmth saw Joy dance with her grandson as she had done many years before with her husband.

What makes this production stand out even more so is the incredible use of masks. There is no dialogue during the almost two hour performance, with communication carried out entirely through mask and mime in order to mimic the various points of Joy’s life. It is a testament to the company that as the show continues, as an audience you begin to forget that the mask is there. On a metaphorical level, this serves in the intentions of the author/director Rachael Savage, who said the piece sought “to go beyond dementia to rediscover the person”.

By the end of the night, there was certainly not a dry eye in the house, as the lights dimmed on a moving tableaux of Joy in the arms of her loved ones for perhaps the last time. The cast and crew deserved their standing ovation, and much more at the end, as Finding Joy was an incredibly moving and wonderful piece of theatre. Quite simply, a triumph.

*****

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