Originally posted on Review Hub http://www.thereviewshub.com/finding-joy-marlowe-theatre-canterbury/ in 2014
With Vamos theatre coming back to the Marlowe on the 4th of October, I thought it was time to reshare my review of Finding Joy. This is an amazing play and worth every tear!
A fully masked play with no dialogue about dementia? Well, that sounds like a harrowing night out – but I promise, this is a play which is more than worth the tears.
If you ever ranked types of theatre with mime firmly at the bottom, Finding Joy will change your mind completely. I was certainly one of those people who would never have considered going to see a mime/mask performance but in the last few months, I have seen two fabulous productions, including this one, and I won’t look back.
Finding Joy is the touching tale of 83 year old Joy. She’s suffering from dementia but it’s happening pretty slowly. At times, she is as playful and alert as she has ever been and then those moments hit where she is confused, lost, out in a road on her own with no idea how she got there or who she is.
Her unlikely saviour is her rebellious, drug taking grandson who realises that he can help her and becomes, not only her carer but also her friend. The love between the two main characters is portrayed beautifully.
In lucid moments, she is a bit of a trickster, playing practical jokes on her grandson and daughter for her own amusement. These moments are made even more poignant when a few minutes later she is putting a card in the fridge or rubbing toothpaste on her hands before bed.
Told with no words, just a beautiful soundtrack echoing different periods of Joy’s life, the magic of this production is the incredible story telling through mime alone. The unmoving masks, created by Russell Dean, somehow have expressions; you see them smile, sigh, look sad or look confused.
Vamos are masters at what they do this production emphasises that they have managed to secure their place as one of the best full mask companies around. They certainly know how to pack a punch, never shying away from the difficult or sentimental moment but balancing them brilliantly with touching and tragically funny moments. When Joy is sat with her grandson and his friends watching football and decides the cushion is a hat – they all join her – why not?
Some may not appreciate some of the stereotypes – the uncaring nurse in the hospital or loud music playing, drug taking youths but when using mime and masks, it is difficult to remove such stereotypes or add in subtleties without losing the meaning.
Clever writing and talented actors have managed to create a show which will make you laugh while tears pour down your face; seamlessly going between the two extremes is not an easy feat to achieve.
It got to the end and I was surprised it was over so soon. So many shows leave you pleased that it is finally the end; not Finding Joy. Content in that world, watching the story unfold, it was sad to see it over – although I was running out of tears to cry.
Writer and Director: Rachael Savage
Music and Sound Editor: Janie Armour