Dementia as a sad, magical journey in this atmospheric show from Glasgow's Vanishing Point
Having recently had my inaugural child, I’ve been doing a decent bit of self-indulgent dwelling upon my own mortality of late. It’s fair to say that Vanishing Point’s ‘Tomorrow’ did not do a huge amount to cheer me up.
After some cryptic opening imagery – women crafting fleshy masks in a pool of inky dark – a young-ish man, George (Samuel Keefe) appears, on his way to hospital to see his wife Claire and their newborn child. He has a tussle with a strange, decrepit figure, then arrives at the hospital, only to be pounced upon by the nurses, who seat him in a chair and bung one of the masks on him, the face of a very old man.
It is to the credit of the stylish Glasgow company that Matthew Lenton’s production injects a certain woozy, magical realist wonder into what turns out to be an in many ways bitterly cruel show about late old age and dementia. Indeed, such is its haunting, noir-ish pace that we’re initially in some doubt as to what is going on, thinking that maybe George has been the victim of some sort of strange, unjust comic jape. And maybe that’s exactly what dementia is.
Sat in the lounge at his home, his days and nights soundtracked by the droning, mundane conversations of the well-meaning but slightly callous nurses, the bewildered George is constantly trying to leave, asserting that he has to get to the hospital to see his baby daughter being born. Time drags on; his adult daughter (who he mistakes for his late wife) occasionally arrives with his grandchildren; the nurses drone on; George starts to deteriorate.
It is all ineffably sad, albeit stylised to the point of taking on an almost beautiful hallucinatory quality. I’m not sure it will provide any comfort to those with loved ones in homes, but as a strangely gorgeous vision of an end that all of us may one day meet, its power is undeniable.