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Reflections on a long and tender relationship

Visitors, Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford, to Feb 16.

The play opens with the Arthur (Kevin Hand) and Edie (Juliet Grundy) entering their sitting room and slowly making their way to comfy chairs to chat amusingly about things that have taken place in their lives, ”I’ve got you and you make me laugh” says Edie.

The couple we discover met when they were only 11 and 13. Now in their late 70s, Edie shows signs of dementia and Arthur is prone to falling. They are joined by blue-haired Kate (Zoe Mortimer), a caring young person who will be allowed to live with them providing she assists around the house and helps to look after them. Then their son Stephen (Barry Purchase-Rathbone) arrives, a selfish man who only wants to sell their farm and put his mother into a home. In the second act Stephen has to tell his parents that his own marriage is breaking up. Ironically his life has been less happy than that of his parents and his attempt to make advances towards Kate triggers a serious rejection. Kate understands only too well that she is merely a convenience. As the story proceeds it becomes evident that the severity of Edie’s dementia will require her moving into a home. This play, written in 2014 by Barney Norris, cleverly manages to be both funny and sad, reflecting how all our lives change with time. The tender relationship between Edie and Arthur is heartwarming and Edie’s final line: “You are in all of my dreams because you were there in my life as well,” will certainly stay in my mind.

The play is well directed by Tony Homer and Juliet Grundy and Kevin Hand give excellent performances. Barry Purchase-Rathbone is convincing in what is a complex role, and Zoe Mortimer is subtle, clever and enchanting as the carer. This is a challenging and thought-provoking play which is well worth seeing - a reminder that we are all just visitors to this world.

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