Reviewed by Leyla Damirel
“Banana Crabtree Simon” – these are the three words that Alan is told to remember. These three words are also the title of a new, one-man play that I was given the lucky chance to review. The play follows the character of Alan and his ongoing condition of dementia.
Other than that, I knew nothing of the play, and went in with an open mind, although I was intrigued as to how the actor would captivate and keep the audience’s attention all on his own – it is a great deal of pressure for one person to captivate the audience and tell a story and keep the audience interested with no other cast members to help, but CJ de Mooi (Alan) managed to capture it perfectly. His characterization is flawless – in a short amount of time, you can see an almost healthy 50-year-old man in front of you deteriorate with his condition to a man who is rapidly becoming weaker as his memory fades. At one point in the show, Alan is under the sure belief that he is once again a little boy who has just attended his sister’s funeral. The way this scene was portrayed was breath-taking – I was not watching a man perform as a man with dementia. I was watching someone who truly did have dementia. The lines between acting and reality were completely blurred.
From the word go, you’re thrown right into the heart of the story; granted this is not necessarily a high energy show, if you’re expecting grand sets and orchestrations, this show is not one for you, but if you want to truly get invested into a story and really feel something, then this is right down your street. The simplicity of the setting and the lack of ‘theatre glamour’ adds to the intimacy of one man telling you his dementia journey, and being able to see his dementia increase as the show gets on is truly something special. I feel if the play were to transfer to a larger theatre, the intimacy would fade and the effect the play had on me would be lost. The use of music throughout the show only adds to the mood – as the play becomes more intense and tense, the music builds and only adds to this; every aspect of the production of this show has been accounted for, so while at face value it may seem that this is a simple play about a man with a degenerative condition, when real attention is paid to the finer details, they can truly be appreciated and the hard work that has been put in behind the scenes which is often overlooked, can truly be noticed. A beautifully heart-breaking piece of theatre, I know for a fact I shall never be forgetting the time I went to see Banana Crabtree Simon.