Launching new audio drama platform Sound Stage, Mark Ravenhill’s Angela is a profoundly moving account of his mother’s experience of dementia
“I don’t like it when they change the story, I wish they would stick to the story”
I don’t know why I put myself through dementia dramas. They tap into one of my deepest fears and more often than not leave me terribly distressed but who says art should ever be easy? Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical Angela launches the Sound Stage platform created by the Royal Lyceum theatre and Pitlochry Festival theatre, adding in virtual theatregoing elements to the audio drama experience and predictably, is gut-wrenchingly yet beautifully felt.
Drawing directly on his mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s and how that impacted the whole family, Ravenhill places her experiences at the heart of his play, a boldly disconcerting move which feels entirely right. As we slip from present to past, as an encounter here triggers a memory there, a portrait is built of the richness of a life lived, even as recollections of it are slipping away from her grasp.
Polly Thomas’ direction allows for an emotive flow of this stream-of-consciousness, as an older Angela (Pam Ferris) and a younger (Matti Houghton) dip in and out, landing on those crucial moments that have somehow lodged in the psyche. A tragic miscarriage, the decision to change her name, meeting the love of her life, but even these get warped, even that small comfort is cruelly taken away through the ravages of disease.
And counterbalancing all of this, is the interwoven personal narrative of Ravenhill himself, his boyhood dreams of dressing and dancing as Jemima Puddleduck, his adult security shaken by the first, terrible, time that his mother doesn’t recognise who he is, Jackson Laing and Joseph Millson both impressing here. Angela is naturally deeply sad, distressing even but it also manages to be uplifting in its quiet determination to keep on keeping on.