"Help me to find her"
by Peter Carrington for remotegoat on 16/10/10

When experiencing sinister music, darkness, ghostly figures wandering through unlit spaces and mantras begging for help one might think Old Bags was a ghost story but if it is, it is one we experience in all our lives reflected on stage.

The play follows the twin stories of Dorian, a lawyer who handles the legal matters of a private Healthcare company and Vivian, an elderly lady who benefits from said company as well as well as those closest to them. Vivian is aging and dementia creeping in, dreams and memories like haunted flashbacks or eerie monologues portrayed with savage emotion by Sibeal McGuinne is how it is experienced. As a result the audience are sometimes within the flashback, seeing Vivian's granddaughter Anne play through the house like a cherished memory but sometimes only seeing Vivian's haunted face and being as oblivious as the other characters.

But this play is about more than just growing old, it is about the things we tell ourselves so often the repetition of them becomes habit. Dorian, does the same, worrying about how now he has passed 40 he is 'getting old', but also how he plans to leave London for a tropical beach. Martin Aukland handles Dorian's part well; allowing the audience just enough sympathy to care about him but not too much to agree with him all the time. For truly he is as flawed as Vivian is, denying what is in front of him because of his own repetitive thoughts.

The most powerful and important scenes are where the two meet. Their clash of similarity is the spark of the play; drunk or demented and trying to get the other to understand. The play keeps asking 'help me to find her' as a mantra for trying to get someone else to understand, be it Vivian's friend Gloria (a skilled performance from Suni La), Dorian's girlfriend Sandra or the police.

The production is extremely well directed and professional throughout. Jonathan Man's direction of the scenes is eerie and ghostly with sound and light used well throughout. I lost count of how many costume changes took place for Lilia Vara who plays both Anne and Dorian's girlfriend Sandra almost simultaneously at times. Vara handles both very capably and differently which is not an easy challenge.
Many more themes are touched upon in this serious work, not all as strongly handled as the ones that hold the audience still and force them to confront their own fears of aging, dementia and caring for the aging. These are handled with skill both from the actors, direction and technical point of view creating an emotive work beneficial to theatre and all those who see it.

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