Shaping Dust presented by Fancy Another?
What is it? New company Fancy Another? tell the story of Emma, a woman living with mid-late stage Alzheimers as her daughter packs up her childhood home for the final time.
What is it all about?
Shaping Dust shows us Emma's life as she remembers and imagines. She is led through her past by a puppeteered doll of a young girl. Her daughter Alice is packing up the house that both her and her mother grew up in with the help of her workaholic partner and conversational neighbour.
How did it make me feel?
Shaping Dust is a tender cross-section of one woman’s life. Starting with an unhappy childhood in the 50s all the way up to present day. An ensemble of actors use a mixture of puppetry and multi-rolling to bring to life a myriad of character’s from Emma’s life. The puppetry is a lovely touch, if at times poorly executed. The stand out performances are from Anna-Rose van der Wiel as Cynthia and Louise and Jasmine Raymond as Mature Emma. Both of them are pacey and tender and bring so much life to an information-heavy story.
Shaping Dust is written and devised by Fancy Another? as an ensemble. Considering the size of the company it is remarkably cohesive. However this devising method removes any sense of distinguishable voice from the writing. It would be interesting to see a version of this play that has had a singular playwright or dramaturg to put a unique spin on the script, as thus far it is nothing we haven’t seen before. There are some brilliant directorial choices, that at some points are messy or overdone. I especially liked the paper chains, that are used so cleverly at first but after a couple of minutes you get the point. The drawing of the clock face is also a fantastic choice and is incredibly moving to watch. I only wish it isn’t immediately scrubbed away as it is a touching visual reminder of the way Emma’s mind is changing.
For a play that deals so delicately with the troubles of ageing it really makes no sense at all to cast an actress in her 20s as 73 year old Emma. There seems to be no discernible reason as to why, and it does not add anything to the production. Especially as Emma Nihill struggles to really nail the voice and physicality of someone of that age. Roles for older actresses are few and far between, and this one is a gold mine of poignancy that I’m sure any appropriately aged actress would jump at the chance to play.
Shaping Dust is a well thought out and tactful look at how someone may be affected by Alzheimers. Fancy Another? have a lot of potential, they will surely thrive with the addition of one clear vision.
Shaping Dust is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until the 15th February 2020.
If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!