The beauty of great theatre is that it can tell stories about challenging subjects the will open up the minds of audiences to new perspectives. VERTEbRA’s Dark Matter brings up one of the most challenging topics we all must face someday—our end of life. This play is a devised puppetry production that focuses on how those with dementia cope with their loss of memory and face their end of life. Dark Matter shares the many stories of astrophysicist, Alfi, as it flashes in and out of the present day into his past memories. Through his life, stars and black holes, Dark Matter questions our understanding of death and the effects of dementia on self-identity.
This play had a couple of brilliant ideas that were well executed. Firstly, the puppetry was beautiful and by telling this story with a puppet made the topic easier to handle. We automatically loved Alfie by his gentle character and his nerdy love for science. We all know someone in their later years who loves to share stories about their past like Alfie does as he daydreams in his home. Secondly, the diverse choices made like using lights for stars or climbing a tree to pick apples. These small choices made the play more unique and truly captivated the life of Alfie. The narrative of the play was a wonderful story, one that many people can relate.
As the story unfolded, it came to a halt a couple times. The use of screen projection wasn’t necessary and it actually took away from the play. The projections were a distraction from the narrative and the reasoning behind them wasn’t very clear.
These projections often broke up scenes where relationships could have reached their fullest potential. We yearned to see more of Alfie’s growing relationship with his nurse. We needed more time to see her find an understanding of Alfie’s feelings about his life. The time given to Helen and Alfie’s relationship was quite scattered and quick as well. The time given to him to reflect on his wife’s death was rudely shaken by the next scene change. These two relationships help carry on Alfie’s narrative and it would have been show-stopping to see them reach their fullest potential.
Dark Matter took some bold risks in its performance by sharing with us the trials of living with dementia. This play is not for audiences in their later stages of dementia but would be good for those in early stages, as well as for their loved ones. We all will come to a time in life that we need to face our ends. Dark Matter is a wonderful little production that allows us to open up and have a real conversation about our future.
Review by Aly Chromy
13 June 2017
Little Angel Theatre
14 Dagmar Passage
London N1 2DN
Running Time: 60 minutes, no interval