“It’s like the start of a really bad joke, ‘a woman, a cripple, and a man with dementia walk into a bank'”
Gary Mitchell’s latest play features Andrew (Ian Beattie) who is down on his luck having been separated from his wife and living with his father, James (Roy Heayberd). However, James has dementia (as well as a host of other illnesses) and Andrew spends his time looking after him. James’ neighbours are Keith (Michael Leibmann) and his girlfriend, Felicity (Roisin Gallagher). Keith is confined to a wheelchair following a road traffic collision whilst he was on his motorbike and this has made him angry and hellbent on revenge against the driver who collided with him, Justin (Richard Orr). Justin is a bank manager married to Stacy (Jo Donnelly) and they have a son, Joshua (Gavin Peden) who, when he first appears, has been expelled from school for dealing drugs. Justin faces problems both in his professional and personal life however these two aspects of his life become blurred due to the flirtatious Felicity whom he works with.
The ultimate drive of the plot to the play is Keith’s wish for revenge against Justin by concocting with James and Felicity a plan to rob the bank Justin works in as temporary manager. They finally manage to coerce Andrew into taking part in the robbery and this is where you meet the emotional aspect of the play with the relationship between father and son. It is obvious Andrew, despite his father’s trying behaviour at times, loves his father and when he realises his father will carry out the robbery whether or not he is involved, James makes the decision to do so in an attempt to protect his father.
There is a sadder undercurrent to the play with James’ dementia which whilst hilarious at times such as when he completely forgets he is carrying out a robbery, you do get a sense of loss and sadness at the fact that James is forgetting things and at times reverting back to an earlier age. It also underlines the fact that they are very simply very desperate people in a desperate situation. Roy Heayberd’s performance was a standout and particularly so with Ian Beattie as his opposite.
Michael Liebmann did a great job providing a lot of the physical comedy. Roisin Gallagher and Jo Donnelly were great in their roles as almost caricatures of the avaricious Felicity and capricious Stacy. Gavin Peden, whose character does not come to the fore until Act 2, gives a solid performance as does Richard Orr as the hen pecked bank manager.
The set was wonderfully simple with a moving partition which enabled a quick set change between the two locations of James’ living room and Justin/Stacy’s kitchen set to suitable musical cues such as the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated.
Gary Mitchell’s newest play is to the point and funny with it. There were many great laugh out loud moments and the jokes were well balanced especially when it came to jokes relating to James’ dementia or Keith’s paralysis. The play, whilst a little slow to get started, kicked off towards the end of the first act and really ramped up the pace within the second act. Great cast, great script and well produced. Absolutely worth a visit.
Demented continues its run at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast until 29th May. Tickets can be bought via the Lyric Theatre website.