The Scourge – Civic Theatre – Review by Frank L.
The Scourge – written and performed by Michelle Dooley Mahon
From 3-5 January, 2019
Mahon has adapted her debut book “Scourged” to create this 80 minute piece for one actor. Its subject is the relationship between a mother and her daughter with the emphasis on the period where the relationship has become that of a person suffering from dementia and that of her carer. Mahon was the primary carer for her mother and kept a chronicle of the day-to-day happenings as her mother declined both at home and in institutional care. That careful chronicling has given her a fine text which is rich in detail. Mahon skilfully brings the audience on a panoply of emotions as she relates the story.
The set is unusual but it works. It consists of a large wardrobe with two doors, standing on one side of the stage. From it, Mahon emerges. Within it is a treasure trove of memorabilia which relate directly or indirectly to her mother including a folding table, a doll, a miniature chair and bed, a bunch of flowers, a half drunk bottle of Jameson and much else besides. Mahon disappears into the wardrobe from time to time to bring out onto the stage various cherished items. Although the objects are disparate they create the visual clues which illuminate the story. Mahon uses them to telling effect as the mother gradually succumbs to the complexities of dementia. The immense love of Mahon for her mother imbues the entire story but she does not shy away from the moments of fear and frustration which inevitably confronts an individual whose role is that of primary carer. There are many moments where the only sensible reaction is that of a benign smile.
Mahon in creating this piece wishes to encourage a wider discussion about individuals suffering from dementia or other mental illnesses. The sensitivity, intelligence and humour of Mahon’s storytelling delivers a sound foundation on which to build just such a wider conversation. With the rise in longevity of life, it is increasingly likely that more people will face issues associated with mental illness. This is a loving piece of theatre which will help us to understand the everyday challenges that arise on this particular journey. It makes for an absorbing evening.