In June 2018, I reviewed Louise Coulthards’ Cockamamy at The Hope Theatre. It was the good old days, pre-virus, in which we could sit shoulder to shoulder in that small dark room on Upper Street and think absolutely nothing of it. It followed the story of Rosie (Coulthard) and her grandmother Alice, as both of their lives began to change. Rosie was embarking on a new relationship, while Alice was showing more and more signs of dementia. We left them at a crossroads, wondering which way each of them would turn. Now, with the country only just beginning to ease lockdown restrictions, we have an online update on the pair.
Their story is continued via video chat, as Rosie checks up on a quarantined Alice (the inimitable Miriam Margolyes in this production). It’s a short piece at around 15 minutes long but is long enough to give us an idea of the stages that both women are at – it’s a nice little catch-up. Alice is at home, appearing to grow increasingly confused at everyday occurrences like the lovely delivery man Cavan (Amit Shah) dropping off her groceries. She’s not so confused though, that she can’t remember that Rosie is indeed single, and tries to set the pair up via FaceTime. I wish my Nan was as a good a wingman as Alice seems to be.
Some startling statistics are presented to us at the beginning of the show. There are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and 209,600 more will develop dementia this year – that’s one person every three minutes. During the pandemic, 120,000 of those with dementia have been living alone. I obviously know very little about the realities of actually living with dementia, but I think we all know from personal experience how lonely and isolating lockdown has been.
For me, and most of my peers, what has gotten me through this experience are memories. Memories of pub gardens, packed theatres, cinema trips, hugging friends, getting on planes, eating in restaurants, and trusting that those times will come again. For those whose minds can’t conjure up those memories for comfort anymore, for those whose brains have misplaced some information, and aren’t as robust as they used to be – I can’t imagine how hard lockdown has been for them, and those that love them.
With Coulthard, Margolyes and Shah all giving as charming a performance as you can expect via the internet, Watching Rosie is about as good as lockdown theatre gets. This brief, sentimental window into the lives of those who isolation may have hit hardest is occasionally funny, but moving throughout.
Watching Rosie is currently streaming online. For more information, visit the Original Theatre website.