Theatre Review: The Keys are in the Margarine

Dunedin's Talking House Trust have been touring the country with their play The Keys are in the Margarine.

Dunedin's Talking House Trust have been touring the country with their play The Keys are in the Margarine.


The Keys are in the Margarine

Directed by Cindy Diver and Stuart Young

Bats Theatre, Wellington 7pm until November 14

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman

It soon becomes obvious that, what at first appears to be a rather obscure title for a play, The Keys Are In The Margarine, is in fact a very common feature of dementia, the play's subject matter.

Arriving in Wellington as part of a national tour, Dunedin's Talking House Trust has put together a very telling and informative, yet entertaining piece of verbatim theatre on memory loss and dementia, most commonly seen as Alzheimer's disease.

A well-used form of documentary type theatre, verbatim theatre is where the actors on stage listen to the stories of those concerned with the subject matter of the play and repeat to the audience what they are hearing.

In this instance, it is not only suffers of dementia and memory loss who are lucid enough to talk about how their lives are affected, but the partners and family members, as well as a GP, a neurophysiologist, staff from a dementia unit in a nursing home and a member of the Alzheimer's Society.

And while the stories of those with dementia describing the onset and gradual changes to their lives, such as not remembering things, is touching, but also sometimes funny, it is the effect on family members, especially partners, that comes out from this show the strongest.


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Partners find the person they are now living with, although physically unchanged, is not the same as the one they first met, as the loss of memory also changes the person's personality – which they are usually totally unaware of.

Not only is it little things like forgetting how to tie shoelaces, knowing how to hold a cup of tea and putting the keys in strange places like the margarine, but the emotional connect between couples that changes and the wants and needs of the unaffected partner are now unmet.

All this is expertly portrayed by the six actors who relay the stories of more than 15 individuals interviewed for the project.

And it is not just a simple repeating as themselves of what they hear, but the taking on of the personae of each interviewee through changes of rhythm, pace and emotion that makes this presentation so telling.

They also effectively move to different areas of the stage for each character, putting on and off simple items of clothing like cardigans and scarves to show the different characters, making this a production not to be missed, especially as an awareness of an all too increasing disease in our society.

 - Stuff

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