Comically intriguing: ‘A Stitch’
Sewing together tumult and tenderness, A Stitch follows Sandra and her husband Roy, who suffers from dementia. The show begins when their morning is disrupted by a criminal on the loose, Jean, who breaks into their house to escape the police, and begins holding them hostage.
The show shines in portraying Roy’s (Jason Bowen) dementia. He delivers his lines exceptionally—the short pauses to think and the stuttering sold his character. I also enjoyed the small details of the set. There are sticky notes around the house to remind Roy what to do: a note next to the door saying, “Wipe your shoes.” This adds a sense of realism to the set as many dementia patients use this as a memory tool.
Playwright Eirik Rutherford has carefully used dementia to create comedy in a gentle way that made it my favourite part of the play. Using a disability for comedic purposes can often be insensitive, but the clever writing of Roy’s character made it so one was laughing at the jokes and not at Roy.
Aerin Kemp is fantastic as Sandra. Being the spouse of someone with dementia is a challenge and Kemp wonderfully portrays her tiredness through sharp line delivery. Another highlight is Sandra’s explosion at Roy over how difficult it is taking care of him. There is so much emotion and passion in her delivery that even while I disagreed with her actions, I felt remorse for her.
Zorba Dravillas as Jean is a dominant presence on the stage. He depicts an unstable criminal on the run exceptionally well with spontaneous physicality and unexpected bursts of rage. I also appreciate how conniving he is, especially when dealing with Roy.
Individually the actors are great but I found a few faults in their blocking and the technical aspects of the show. Having one’s back to the audience can be used positively in theatre, such as to make a statement. However, a downside is that it can take an audience out of a scene. In this performance, there were instances where I found the actors’ backs facing the audience very distracting. There was one specific scene where Sandra and Roy were having a heated argument. Roy was facing Sandra with his back to the audience while also obstructing the view of Sandra in front of him. During a scene where I should be invested in this argument, this small detail disengaged me from the performance.
There were parts that I found disjointed in the production, such as the transitions between scenes. These scene changes felt awkward because there was nothing to indicate their end or there was seemingly a mis-cue. In one instance, Jean leaves the house and is pushed back into it by something (we do not know what) and then the stage goes dark. There was no sound cue to provide further explanation so the audience only saw him walk out of the house, then fall back (with no reason why), making the ending of the scene confusing.
The dialogue and behaviour from Roy and Jean towards Sandra made me uneasy at times. Sandra is subject to physical and verbal abuse that is crude and vulgar from both her husband and Jean. My discomfort was stronger with Roy’s actions as he is Sandra’s husband, rather than Jean’s actions—he is a criminal so his aggression didn’t seem out of character for him. An audience comes to realise parts in Sandra and Roy’s relationship which make Roy’s actions align with his behaviour later in the performance. The problem for me is before an audience knows this information it feels as if these bursts of rage come from nowhere. Even though these actions from Roy and Jean made me distressed, one can say they brilliantly acted in a way which made the scene feel real, adding to my discomfort.
With that being said, I did love the ending. It was a massive surprise that I didn’t see coming. Not only was it unexpected, but it made the story’s absurdity make sense while also demonstrating the serious effects of dementia.
A Stitch is a dynamic show about a husband with dementia and his wife whose morning gets turned upside down by an unexpected guest. Through powerful acting and the accurate portrayal of dementia, a strong foundation has been laid for this show. If they can tighten up the tech I feel like this can be an enjoyable experience for any theatre-goer.