Review: Visitors, by Barney Norris, Up In Arms, Ipswich High School, to April 4

Eleanor Wyld as Kate and Linda Bassett as Edie in Visitors, at Ipswich High School. Photo: Mark Doue

Eleanor Wyld as Kate and Linda Bassett as Edie in Visitors, at Ipswich High School. Photo: Mark Douet - Credit: Photo by mark Douet

Brimming with wit and warmth, this is a beautiful, poignant piece of work that transcends its subject matter.

Edie’s unravelling mental state may be the spark, but it’s about more than that because dementia is about more than dementia. What drives the story is the relationship between the four characters.

Husband Arthur (Robin Soans) can’t afford to stop working their isolated farm to look after her. Son Stephen (Simon Muller) doesn’t want to take over the business, which has been in the family generations, and can’t afford to put Edie (Linda Bassett) into care. When Kate (Eleanor Wyld) moves in to help, all four are forced to examine their lives.

A collaboration between playwright Barney Norris and director Alice Hamilton, this simply staged comedy cum love story is wonderfully written and deftly directed.

Subtle rather than overplayed, it’s heartwarming, with loads of laugh out loud moments, and heartbreaking in equal measure.

It’s so true to life you feel like you’re peering through these people’s window, becoming emotionally involved in their lives before you know it.

The acting is faultless, although a sweary confrontation scene towards the end felt a little forced. This is unquestionably Bassett’s show, turning in a tour-de-force performance.

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As for the ending; it wasn’t the one I expected or was rooting for but it was the right one. A very brave piece of drama.

Wayne Savage

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