Friday, 2 October 2009

And No More Shall We Part ***1/2

By Tom Holloway, by A Bit of Argy Bargy
Black Box, Arts Centre, Oct 2 to 10, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2

Take a box of tissues for this poignant play. And No More Shall We Part, by Tom Holloway, is 80 minutes of despair, loss, grief and love. With unsentimental truth and sensitivity, Margaret Mills and Denis Moore portray the grim, quiet normality of a married couple at a crisis point.

Within minutes of seeing Pam (Mills) lying under the pale covers of her single bed and Don (Moore) perched on a chair beside her we know that Pam is waiting to die – and very soon.

Holloway, with director, Martin White, depicts an ordinary, domestic world in which a couple, after 30 years of marriage, faces their final conflict. Pam suffers a terminal illness that will soon rob her of any quality of life and leave in crippling pain. She chooses voluntary euthanasia – a process that remains a criminal act here for anyone assisting the suicide.

As Pam lies at home in her child-sized bed they share recollections from their shared life: a camping trip, their first night in a double bed, their children. The scenes shift between this final night and other recent, painful moments. We see Pam inform Don of her decision to end her life. On a later occasion Don, in rage and confusion, calls her decision “selfish” and demands they go to Switzerland where euthanasia is legal. Their final silent meal together is achingly painful.

Moore grabs our sympathy with his compassionate portrayal of this awkward, mercurial and desperate man whose moods swing from distraction to panic and anger as he struggles to accept that his wife is leaving him forever. Mills brings dignity, stoicism and decisiveness to Pam who takes control of her own death while Don grapples with his impending aloneness. She calmly reminds him of happy times and bluntly demands he comply with her last wishes.

White finds some dynamic range within the ordinariness although he employs too many silent, dimly lit scene changes that seem unnecessarily and excruciatingly slow. The ending is not what we expect and in some ways this makes it even more distressing. You are not in for a happy time in this show but it is compelling.

By Kate Herbert

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