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Still Alice review: a beautiful, raw and honest depiction of a disease that affects so many people’s lives

PUBLISHED: 11:42 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:51 03 October 2018

Sharon Small as Alice in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint Lewis

Sharon Small as Alice in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint Lewis

eraint Lewis - geraint@geraintlewis.com

This new adaption of Still Alice, the award-winning novel and film, has arrived at Norwich Theatre Royal to tell the story of Alice Howland, a 50-year-old Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Sharon Small as Alice, Mark Armstrong as Thomas and Martin Marquez as John in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint LewisSharon Small as Alice, Mark Armstrong as Thomas and Martin Marquez as John in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint Lewis

This adaption looks to explore and truthfully acknowledge what life is like with a progressive disease, its conflicts and burden, and its small, priceless victories.

The production enjoyed critical acclaim when it was performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year and Sharon Small is reprising the title role for the production’s UK tour, her first tour in 25 years.

Best known for her role as Barbara Havers in the BBC1 detective drama The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Sharon Small was the perfect person for the lead role.

The show began with Alice Howland (Sharon Small), forgetting small things around her home and struggling to find the words she needed to form coherent sentences.

Anna Andresen as Dr Tamara, Sharon Small as Alice and Eva Pope as Herself in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint LewisAnna Andresen as Dr Tamara, Sharon Small as Alice and Eva Pope as Herself in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint Lewis

After reaching 50, she begins to wonder whether the menopause may be the cause of her recent confusion and disorientation, later seeking the advice of Dr Tamara (Anna Andresen) who begins to assess what the underlying problem may be.

As the months pass and the diagnosis is confirmed, we see Alice struggling further to remember dates, items and even to get dressed before heading to her workplace.

Sharon Small expertly portrayed the distress Alice felt when losing her bearings in her own home whilst trying to find the bathroom, and even forgetting her own daughter later in the show.

The emotions were portrayed so eloquently that the audience couldn’t help but feel distraught for Alice and her family who were beginning to buckle under the stress of the condition.

Sharon Small as Alice and Martin Marquez as John in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint LewisSharon Small as Alice and Martin Marquez as John in Still Alice. Photo: Geraint Lewis

The show could easily have been at risk of being overly heavy and morbid, but the performance of Alice’s inner self by Eva Pope helped to lift the mood, adding in some lighthearted and humorous elements that had the audience laughing at what is a difficult theme to digest.

The simple staging worked perfectly, seemingly representing the inner workings of Alice’s mind - cluttered and confused. As each scene progressed, the props were slowly re-arranged and stripped back until Alice and her husband John were left in the final scene sat on deck chairs alone in the centre of the stage.

As the lights faded marking the end of the performance the audience erupted into applause, with many on their feet, at what was a beautiful, raw and honest depiction of a disease that effects so many people’s lives.

• Tickets for Still Alice are available for £10 - £29.50 from the Norwich Theatre Royal Box Office or via 01603 630000. The show runs until Saturday October 6.

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