Cockamamy, the definition means ludicrous; implausible.
But is this production, part of the Camden Fringe Festival, a true representation of its definition?
Once seated, the audience are immersed into the home of Alice (Mary Rutherford).
The set, designed by Elle Loudon, is the interior of a 1940s-style living room with a sofa at the heart of the action. This probably reminds audience members of their own grandparents’ home. The authentic staging felt very familiar; paintings, a family photograph and ornaments reminiscent of childhood. With realism at the heart of this production, the audience watch the tragicomedy unfold.
Scenes such as a heated dinner conversation, between Alice, her granddaughter Rosie (writer and actor Louise Coulthard) and charming doctor Cavan (Scott Clee) highlight Coulthard’s emotive and realistic writing – it’s not hard to believe that this could be a conversation between yourself and your own grandmother dealing with dementia. As Cavan explains the symptoms of the illness – the audience begins to realise how many of these that Alice has. With one in six people diagnosed as having some form of dementia, the script based on truth, examines how this condition affects relationships. In this instance it is the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter as they deal with the frustrations and fear of losing memories and coping with change.
Lights dim and the music increases in volume as Alice walks across the stage, battling against her memory loss. Repeating phrases and words such as days of the week and songs, the audience gets an insight into what it is like to live with the early signs of this crippling condition. Flashbacks of her late husband Arthur, as though he is watching her every move, add an almost spiritual dimension. Through Rutherford’s acting abilities, the audience almost feel his presence in the room, as though you are trapped in her mind.
Suspense builds as a voice from a panic telecom call tries to speak to Alice. “Alice are you there? I’m going to call an ambulance.” With the stage in complete darkness, the audience expects the worst – like her granddaughter Rosie. Lights flicker up, and Alice appears lounging across the sofa, with a cheery voice asking if the woman is okay. As an audience member, you can’t help but laugh, reassured that she isn’t harmed. But it’s a real insight into how lonely and vulnerable Alice really is. Rosie storms into view explaining how the sensors and call works – the audience understands her frustrations, Coulthard’s voice gives away how difficult she finds the situation. Rosie, like many in a similar situation, knows she can’t be around all the time to watch her grandmother. The audience experiences her struggles dealing with trying to lead her own life and supporting her family through her acting out the everyday scenarios.
So is Cockamamy ludicrous? I believe not, with the audience beginning to well up by the end of the production as it clearly demonstrates the heart break that dementia brings. The emotional piece leaves Alice asking “Where have I gone?” Likewise Rosie is able to convey the loss of someone she loves and cares for. Her character shows us all the humanity in their relationship and how it is threatened by dementia.
Cockamamy played at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of The Camden Fringe Festival until August 20. The Camden Fringe Festival runs until August 28.