The Art of Caring is a quietly powerful gem of a play that delivers a heart warming story and phenomenal acting. It’s a fast-paced one-woman show that addresses the forgotten elderly and the challenges their carers face everyday. Encee Cripps plays a deeply sardonic carer who rushes from room to room to tidy and cook for her patients. This constant hurry then slows down and the play dabbles with sentimental questions about caring for the older generation. There is a beautiful contrast between the overworked carer who barely has enough time to clean, compared to the solitary elderly characters who crave affection. Sam Cartwright and Cripps have written a sarcastic but honest piece with stunning moments of light and shade.
The story follows Cripps round her daily routine with the added pressure of a looming inspection. Her character is disparaging in moments of stress, but then shows real compassion. She really wants to make people’s end of life process happier and the play shows this journey magnificently. The plot is simple but pleasantly intriguing and sheds light into a forgotten topic.
Cripps chaotically bounds around the stage with her trusty mop that acts as a multi-purpose prop throughout. She is a dynamic power-house who is delightfully honest to watch. Cripps seamlessly transitions from the frantic carer to the peaceful patients with hilariously accurate impressions. She holds the stage for the full 45 minutes with an animated energy. At times Cripps feels too rushed and her frenzied state makes it difficult to catch every word she is saying, but she soon settles into the pace of the show and eases into a natural rhythm of speech.
The play is filled with humour that makes fun of the unpleasant jobs a carer has to face. This brings witty comedy throughout and the audience don’t stop sniggering for the whole show. The show then changes tact and describes beautiful metaphors about the elderly feeling left behind, which inevitably gets a sigh of sorrow from the whole audience. The play itself is excellently written, touching on important subjects that feel close to home. It gently asks “Would you choose to give someone the best start to their life, or the best end?”. Cripps shows the contrast of how frustrated she gets with her patients, to how much they have really made an impact in her life, and that transition is poignant and fascinating to watch.
The Art of Caring succeeds at making us feel deep sorrow, laugh out loud and then question our own role with the elderly. It is a fantastically silly and poignant play performed brilliantly by the charismatic Cripps – a captivating evening at the theatre.
The Art of Caring played at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 24 August. For more information visit the Lion and Unicorn Theatre website.