Venue: Lowry
Where: Salford

Exploring ideas of memory, ageing and love, Kulunka Teatro’s Andre & Dorine is a tender portrayal of a relationship changed by, and changing with, Dementia.

Performed entirely through mime, mask and music, the piece tells the simple story of elderly writer Andre, his wife Dorine and their adult son as they each come to terms with Dorine’s developing Dementia. Without dialogue, the show speaks eloquently of the poignant reversal of care-roles between elderly parents and their children, of the strain of sudden transformation and of our capacity to adapt for love.

Though there are scenes that very directly and literally highlight the fear, confusion and frustration that may be experienced by Dementia sufferers and their families, the piece never loses a sense of hope or even a sense of humour. The darker scenes of Dorine’s descent and Andre’s struggle to cope are tempered by lively flashbacks to the couple’s carefree youth (a device used to excellent effect in both Theatre Adinfinitum’s Translunar Paradise and Frantic Assembly’s Lovesong, two recent shows that also contemplate ageing and romantic love), with the company’s flair for physical clowning providing balance here.

The three performers (Jose Dault, Garbine Insausti and Edu Carcamo) work tirelessly, seamlessly interchanging to play a rich cast of characters. They are each masters of comic timing and of physical acting, sensitively and instinctively driving the show though rapid changes in tone. Insausti’s masks are open and endearing, seeming to change expression as the action dictated.

Strongest in its simplicity, the piece occasionally uses an unnecessarily heavy-hand to illustrate Dorine’s Dementia, using lots of tragically calamitous acts to really show her shrinking independence. The performances, story and characters are powerful and clear enough, and perhaps don’t require or warrant quite so much explaining.

Andre & Dorine handles a difficult subject with humanity and humour. Kulunka Teatro balance high drama and sadness with wit and warmth, skilfully avoiding any trace of bleakness. Bittersweet, optimistic and most certainly, unforgettable.

- Sara Cocker