Theatre review: Ivory Wings, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

Before us, an elderly woman sits crumpled and frail in the centre of the stage, swallowed by it and by the weight of her own memories.

A solidly-made piece of theatre and a commanding performance from Susie Coreth
A solidly-made piece of theatre and a commanding performance from Susie Coreth

Ivory Wings, Assembly Rooms (Venue 20) * * * *

As time progresses, they begin to elude her more and more; her daughter, her grandchildren, the fate of her beloved husband… all pass her by in the slow creep of Alzheimer’s disease.

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That is, until the gentle sound of a piano fills the air, and she is rejuvenated. Springing to her feet, a charge of youthful energy shoots through her and she’s back in the throes of the Second World War once more – one of Britain’s most experienced Spitfire pilots.

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The contrast between Virginia’s playful courtship of husband Leo and their tender embrace upon his broken return from a Japanese prison camp is heartbreaking.

In her touching, sensitive impression of the elder Virginia, she also manages something which few pieces about dementia share: a sense of hope, that one snatched memory triggered by a piece of music might reaffirm a life anew. When she leaves the stage, her tears appear as real as those of the audience.

Until 24 August.