Descent (4 stars)

This article is from 2017


Harrowing and touching look at the effects of dementia on a family

Linda Duncan McLaughlin's Descent is a powerful and touching portrait of a family's fight for normalcy and structure amid a life-changing diagnosis.

Architect Rob (Paul Cunningham) is meticulous and methodical in his daily life. But gradually, he begins to lose his grip on this order and control, with simple tasks becoming laborious and key information slipping away. As wife Cathy (Wendy Seager) struggles to come to terms with the possibility of Rob's dementia, their daughter Nicola (Fiona MacNeil) faces the truth of the situation head on.

The climax of Rob's deterioration comes in an intense moment when he grabs Cathy's throat in a fit of anger, completely unaware of his actions. It works to bring into focus the effects of his dementia on those around him. Each character's monologues outline their own personal suffering, stressing a shared experience of pain and bewilderment. But as Rob's condition worsens, his thoughts disappear from the dialogue, with the silence ultimately symbolising the family's loss.

The three-strong cast do justice to McLaughlin's harrowing script, depicting the swift change in circumstance with a grief and tenderness that is profoundly authentic. Descent not only explores the effects of dementia but questions the process of mourning when confronted with such a loss.

Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre, until 20 Aug (not 18), 7.30pm, £10--£12 (£9--£11).


  • 4 stars

A Moment White Productions ‘If you love someone you stick by them, no matter what happens. Because that’s the deal. Isn’t it?’ 50-somethings Rob and Cathy are reclaiming their own lives now that daughter Nicola is grown-up and settled; but looming over them is a threat that could rip their future apart. Descent explores…