Chilling and beautiful experimental study of dementia and care work
This article is from 2015.
On a piece of paper handed to the audience as they file in, Glasgow’s Vanishing Point explain that they wanted, ‘to get beneath someone’s skin in a visceral rather than intellectual way’. It’s safe to say they have. This experimental study of dementia and care work is a hardcore, unflinching look at ageing and end-of-life care, delivered like a sucker punch to the heart.
After an intense opening scene, scored with Mark Melville’s overwrought strings, there are nightmarish nods to Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1940s play No Exit, and John Frankenheimer’s terrifying, 1960s sci-fi film, Seconds. George, a young and earnest man, hurrying to meet his newborn daughter in hospital, is grabbed and forced into a disorientating holding pen. A cosseted purgatory, where care workers coo at him in cloyingly patronising tones (‘I’ll need you to calm down for me’), they strip him naked and force a rubbery mask over his head – wrinkled and bald – trapping him underneath a grotesque flash-forward to his frail, elderly self.
What follows is an uncomfortable and saddening swirl; care workers lead infantile singsongs, patients get aggressive, pee themselves, repeat questions, and all the while, past and present realities blur and churn around them.
Just as the carers rely on jokes to cope with the work, Matthew Lenton’s sparse script allows flashes of gallows humour to cut through the gloom (and actual torchlights, beamed through the darkness). At one point, a silent old man nonchalantly sketches explicit drawings of another patient, and another brandishes his zimmer frame like a weapon.
With its casually crushing dialogue, and skilful sensory manipulation, Tomorrow is chilling and beautiful, and as much an abstract and tortured study of what it means to be ‘in the land of the living’ as it is the land of the dying.
Traverse, 228 1404, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24), times vary, £20 (£15).