A bestselling novel by Lisa Genova, a critically acclaimed film and now a play – Still Alice explores a woman’s diagnosis with early onset Alzheimer’s. Described by Sheffield Theatres as “a unique insight into the experience of a woman fighting to maintain her identity as her world changes,” Still Alice manages to present heavy subject matter in a realistic manner, all within 90 minutes.
The story is set over 2 years, showing the progression of the Alzheimer’s on Alice, an established Harvard professor. Brief moments of light comic relief appropriately break up the tension of the play’s heavy themes, without undermining the tough subject matter on show.
A key strength of the play is the division of the character Alice between the two actors who play her; Alice herself (Sharon Small) and internal thoughts, called Herself (Eva Pope). This technique distinguishes Alice’s thoughts and personal relationship with the illness as well as her interactions with other family members, allowing the audience to understand and emphasise with the character on a deeper level. The two characters can be slightly confusing initially, however, as the story unravels, the technique works to the play’s advantage.
Family dynamics, particularly how they are affected by life changing illness, are another key theme of the play. The emotions displayed by Alice’s husband (Martin Marquez) and her children (Ruth Ollman and Mark Armstrong) of sadness, anger and frustration are painfully accurate in realistically portraying how illness can impact family relationships. The play also touches on how families are often torn between caring for their relatives and looking after themselves – with Alice’s husband and children working to find a balance between their careers and looking after Alice.
Adapting a best-selling novel and film is no easy task. Despite the heavy subject matter, Still Alice manages to provide uplifting and empowering moments for Alice, her experience and her relationships. Still Alice displays the complex reality of living with Alzheimer’s, in a compelling and emotional manner.
Book tickets for the final showings of Still Alice here.
Image Credit: Geraint Lewis