BWW Review: THE OTHER PLACE, Park Theatre
Following a successful off-Broadway and Broadway run in 2011 and 2013 respectively, and Tony Award nominations, Sharr White's The Other Place has transferred to London's Park Theatre for its UK Premiere.
Juliana Smithton (Karen Archer) is a sharp, intelligent businesswoman - confident, witty and abrasive, she stands before a crowd of male doctors at a neurological convention, pitching a new drug she has helped develop. However she finds that she is unable to tear her focus away from a young girl wearing a distinctive yellow bikini, sat among the doctors. She makes digging remarks at the girl to embarrass her, when she still doesn't leave she continues to bait her, while at the same time pitying her.
Throughout her speech, there are a number of cut away scenes - phone calls from her estranged daughter Laurel, appointments with her doctor (Eliza Collings), fights with her husband (Neil McCaul) - who may or may not be divorcing her, and constant references to 'the other place'.
When the girl suddenly vanishes from the middle of the row, Juliana is left confused and afraid, and when she's suddenly taken ill, she convinces herself she has brain cancer. She suddenly becomes aggressive and angry at everyone, including her loving husband Ian and her doctor, convinced they're having an affair. However, it soon becomes apparent that Juliana is suffering from dementia, and it is when she turns up at 'the other place', a holiday home in Cape Cod which is now owned by someone else, that she is at her most vulnerable and helpless.
Directed by Clare van Kampen, the 80 minute straight-through production is set at a good pace. Archer's decline from feisty businesswoman, to a confused and distraught shadow of her former self, as she sits on the floor of a stranger's house is cruel to witness. Archer gives a fine performance of a woman battling her diagnosis, and there's strong support from McCaul as her struggling husband and Collings in a multitude of roles including a doctor, Smithton's daughter Laurel and the new owner of the Cape Cod house.
The decline in Juliana is hard to watch, but Sharr's sympathetic writing interjected by some laugh out loud moments make for a compelling and moving story.
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton