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Doing Time with Number 5 | Clare Pickering | Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Copyrighted to Australian Stage 

The last year has seen a number of shows dealing with Alzhemiers and Dementia and each time you hope it will be more than it will be a semi-autobiographical elegy to a loved one.

Not that the latter is not important and valid, of course it is and in fact in Clare Pickering’s case it is her storytelling ability and obvious intense relationships with her parents that inform the heart of this work.

But unfortunately, it’s just not enough.

There are some genuinely exquisite moments and well-placed humour but the script needs to be edited and the largely unimaginative staging detracts from the story itself.

While heartfelt, Pickering’s biggest let down is the fact that while offering a glimpse into her childhood, complex family relationships and the struggle to balance an acting career with two parents experiencing the onslaught of dementia and their mental and physical deterioration – it fails to do much else.

Set against the backdrop of a large Australian map (used largely to show the frequent trips between Perth and Melbourne) Pickering’s confessional trajectory is touching but filled with clichés, repetition and appears to be more of a personal catharsis than an example of theatre offering a space to provoke questions about a very topical issue.

Furthermore, there are so many unraised question regarding palliative care for the aging population in Australia, including the flaws in the institutions that are meant to respond and provide for those who experience these debilitating conditions that it is disappointing that these layers aren’t explored in any detail. In addition, Doing time with Number 5 ignores the issue of accountability as a society to have this important conversation and consequently, take collective action to respond to the factors that are continuing to stigmatize and marginalise members of our community.

Plenty of potential to become a powerful play but certainly needs to shift out of the comforts of personalized dinner table reminisces.

TWO STARS

Late Bloomer’s Productions Ensemble
Doing Time with Number 5
Clare Pickering

Venue: Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall (Venue 278) | Edinburgh UK ​
Dates: 24 – 25 August, 2014