As the daughter of a mother recently diagnosed with earlier dementia, I have vowed this year to step out of my comfort zone and look deeper into the subject, so what better way of doing so then with the latest production from one of Sheffield’s best student theatre company’s Sheffield University Theatre Company (SUTCO).
Memories of a Clockmaker tells the story of Thomas, a man in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Thomas has lived a full and rich life with adventure, laughter, and love, but with every day he remembers less of it. In his study he lives under the care of a dedicated nurse, surrounded by the clocks to which he devoted his working life. One morning he awakes with the haunting memory of a girl with whom he once spent an enchanting night of dance and music. Using his clocks as prompts, he resolves to search what remains of his memories to discover who she was, and where she has gone.
Matthew Bevan as Thomas gave an outstanding performance that any professional actor would be proud of, seamlessly moving from his perfectly capturing of the body language and tone of both his older age and the later stages of his condition with his youthful past, topped up with an amazingly choreographed 1920s/contemporary dance through life with his beautiful and mesmerising Lost Love in white played wordlessly by Margaret Smith, whose incredible chemistry was matched by that of his youthful bromance with James Huxtable as Mark, that was equally hilarious, moving and genuine.
James Huxtable gave a performance equally brilliant to Matthew’s own across multiple characters, smoothly transitioning between Thomas’ loved ones from best friend to son and father, capturing both the attitudes and emotions of his changing roles but also the chemistry of his changing relationships with Matthew’s character, providing me with a incredibly moving insight into my own relationship with my mother and her condition and a reassurance that love will always be there in some form. I must especially highlight James’s performance as Thomas’s own father, visibly aging before the audience’s eyes and in that role performing the best and most natural and moving performance of the night.
In a cast of excellent performances, I cannot miss out Cerys Hayes as the caring and professional nurse, who showed genuine respect for Thomas as a person and not just a condition and played a vital part in the show’s very sweet and uplifting ending; and Charlotte Schofield who captured both Thomas’s original European iron lady with a heart first boss and that of his doctor in her one-sided professional yet emotionless consultation with him after his diagnosis.
The outstanding direction by Rory O’Sullivan and choreography by Phoebe Phillips made clever use of the small stage and the quick flashes of Thomas’s memory and those who formed part of it. Rory was also responsible for writing the superb script, that wonderfully and genuinely captured both the condition, the memories, the relationships and frustrations involved.
The intimate small space at Theatre Deli led the audience to feel part of the clockmaker’s life from the minute they entered through the set, designed by Jenna Wards and Vic Glistrides of ticking clocks, empty bottles, much loved books and well played vinyl with at its heart a single bed where Thomas restlessly slept before a clock marked both the start of the wonderful production and his day. Whilst the clever use of lighting and different music speeds, jumps and voiceovers (thanks to the lighting and sound design and operation from Jake Holland, Callum Booth, Nick Young and Megan Roberts) added to the incredible capturing of what was happening in Thomas’s brain and his inability to stop his memories unravelling.
Not only by far the best production I have seen by SUTCo but one of the best theatre performances I have ever seen, full of amazing performances far beyond the years of any of the company, I felt honoured to be in the audience for this original and unmissable production.
The one hour and 20 minute duration without an interval meant that the audience became completely absorbed in the performance without the distraction of the outside world.
With only a small number of seats available I urge you to book quickly for this original and unmissable performance. Memories of a Clockmaker is on at Theatre Deli at 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm) until Saturday 21 April (no performance on Friday 20 April) with an additional matinee performance at 2.30pm (doors open at 2pm) on the Saturday. Tickets, priced at £7 (£6 in advance) are available from www.sutco.org/tickets.
The award winning SUTCo perform four shows a semester. There final show of the semester is Spring Awakening from 2 to 5 May at Sheffield University Drama Studio. For further information visit www.sutco.org, like on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SuTCo, or follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sutco.
Theatre Delicatessen aims to change the way people think about their creative potential by unlocking unusual spaces where artists, audiences and communities can come together to make transformational moments. By transforming spaces they aim to expand opportunities to create, make and experience art and contribute to positive change in careers, communities and their collective future. Last year in Sheffield they moved from their venue in the old Woolworths to a new venue in Eyre Street, next to Office Depot, into a huge great blank canvas of a venue, double the size of their previous site. For further information visit www.theatredeli.co.uk.