"tender, moving drama about ageing"
by Frank Hill for remotegoat on 21/01/17

Tricky thing, getting older - and passing the age of sixty. Much as you want to ignore the fact, joints begin to creak a little more and memory becomes less reliable. I should know. And what might happen when we drift into our seventies and eighties can become a bit of a worry.
‘Betty’ (a ‘Fly In Your Soup Theatre’ production at HOME, Manchester until 22nd January) takes a very personal view on ageing. Louise-Clare Henry (who not only performs in, but also created and devised the production) uses family interviews and her own experiences to tell the story of her grand-mother Betty - from her early courting days through marriage, childbirth and loss, to coping with ageing and diminishing abilities.
Using masks, puppets, recorded conversations, music and physical (sometimes painfully so) theatre Louise-Clare gives a striking and forceful performance, vividly illustrating the various phases of Betty’s life. From her energetic, exuberant, sometimes surprisingly violent early years, to a very nuanced, delicate and sensitive portrayal of older Betty - capturing the slow, painful, methodical movements of the elderly to perfection. The accompaniment of a ticking clock seems to relentlessly drain her life away.
There are abrupt changes of tone, used to shocking effect. An amusing car journey suddenly becomes scary and tense as Betty forgets where she is and why she’s there.
At home, in a moment of panic, she phones her daughter.
‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.’
‘You’re not supposed to be doing anything,’ is the reply.
I found this a shocking dismissal of somebody’s worth. And a very moving and evocative scene. After a productive and active life, at what point do we no longer have a function? And what happens to us when we realise that?
Don’t get the idea this is a morbid or depressing play. It certainly isn’t. There are plenty of tender - even funny - moments.
At times it seemed a little unclear what was happening, though this may have been deliberate - reflecting Betty’s own confused memories. It may also be because the audio recorded conversations were sometimes indistinct (particularly when music was playing in the background) and I felt I was missing important detail. Of course this may, ironically, be due to my own diminishing abilities. I empathised with Betty in far too many uncomfortable ways.
It’s worth mentioning an introductory sequence filmed by Newport Film School. An elderly couple write love poetry to each other reflecting the little things that cement their relationship and help create their own little world. If only time could be frozen at this moment of contented happiness. Sadly it can’t, and ‘Betty’ looks at what happens afterwards.
I really enjoyed the production and Louise-Clare Henry gives a fine performance as Betty in all her many guises. The production was directed with gusto by Martha Simon and told a moving story that clearly comes from the heart.

Add Your review?

Have your say, add your review

Other recent reviews by Frank Hill
ambitious, frenetic, moving friendship drama by Frank Hill
The Professor of Adventure
fascinating, early eccentric environmentalist biog-play by Frank Hill
The Little Angel
powerful, haunting, innovative musical theatre by Frank Hill
Tyburnia - The Dead Rat Orchestra & Lisa Knapp
original, multi-media, curious history presentation by Frank Hill
starke.florida: The final hours of Ted Bundy
tense, claustrophobic, serial killer drama by Frank Hill