Still Alice, running at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 3rd March 2018, sees professional Alice Howland face a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. The eponymous part is played by Sharon Small (star of hit BBC drama Trust Me).
Those who saw the 2014 film version, or have read the original book, will find this stage adaptation particularly interesting. For those coming at Still Alice afresh, it’s likely to be just as captivating. It’s full of drama and intrigue yet forces viewers to face up to some hard-hitting issues. It’s great to see this production open West Yorkshire Playhouse’s powerful festival Every Third Minute, which addresses the issues of dementia in a hopeful, positive way.
Here are Sharon Small’s thoughts on the new production:
What initially drew you to Still Alice, and what about the production are you looking forward to?
I read the novel with my book group and loved it, and also I’d seen the film. I was delighted to be asked to play the role because of its subject matter and the challenge of bringing such a moving story to the stage, especially how the diagnosis affects Alice’s work and family. It’s a frank and furious look on the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alice goes on a moving journey, what do you think will be the challenges of playing the character?
The main challenge I think, is to chart the effects of the disease on Alice as accurately as possible. She is so brilliantly bright and as she starts to lose cognition, she fights in different ways to keep her brain active. Also creating the relationship with the character of Herself (played by Ruth Gemmell) onstage who reflects the thoughts that Alice can’t say aloud. It’s such a brilliant addition to the production and the audience will have a different insight to what Alice is experiencing. It also demonstrates so clearly Alice’s new relationship with herself and her consciousness.
How is this new stage adaptation approaching bringing such a poignant story to life?
The stage design has a huge part to play in how it reflects Alice’s world as it changes and disappears around her as the disease progresses. Also with the wonderful other actors who play family, doctors and friends doing such a beautiful job articulating how their relationships change with Alice as a result of living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Make sure you don’t miss this powerful production. I’ll be heading along on Valentine’s Day, a great alternative to the stereotypical lovey-dovey evening most feel obligated to arrange. In many ways, I feel this will be a far more apt way to spend the day – feeling love, hope and positivity for a poignant and important issue. Check back to hear my thoughts, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
Photograph credited to Geraint Lewis.