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Watching Rosie is a 12 minute-long play that covers the experience of a person living with dementia during the lockdown. The entire short takes place over a video call between a grandmother and granddaughter, giving the audience insight into a personal conversation that is both funny and moving.
The play opens with ‘Hiya’, some light piano and guitar music, and what is now a familiar sight – a video call between relatives. Straightaway we are shown Alice’s playful side. She hides from the camera while Rosie worriedly calls ‘Gran!’, who then pops up from the right, giggling ‘boo’. Played by Miriam Margoyles, grandmother Alice brings a toy baby named Jeremy into shot and explains to Rosie that he’s not been eating his food. Rosie plays along with this, although you can see in her face that she is concerned. Alice also brings in a vase of flowers sent from Rosie, but they are upside down with the stems coming out of the top. It’s interesting how Alice is ‘switched on’ in many ways, for example, when Rosie tries to use Jeremy as a reason for Alice to stay home, Alice comes back with ‘he’s only a doll you know!’. She confronts Rosie, seemingly having forgotten playing with him earlier. In spite of her occasional coherence, it becomes clear she forgets frequently and is a bit confused.
Alice calls for Arthur to come and speak to Rosie, but there’s a heartbreaking moment where she seems to realise he’s not there. The audience can see from Rosie’s face that he (presumably Alice’s husband and Rosie’s grandfather) has passed away and that Alice has forgotten. This for me was probably the most distressing part of the play, as it highlights how unforgiving dementia is.
In the same vein, but less upsettingly, Alice gets confused with the video call and the telly – she thinks Rosie is inside and that she should ‘come out for a cup of tea’. Occasionally, she also changes the subject without warning or ignores questions that Rosie asks; this doesn’t seem to be because she’s being rude, but actually because she’s not able to hold a straight conversation, or remember what was said before.
Alice worries when there’s a knock at the door because she’s nervous to answer it. Rosie suggests that she brings her with her to the door. It’s not mentioned, but there is a tower of toilet roll to the left of the door which made me giggle – we know who’s been hoarding it! She asks the delivery person at the door if he’s come to rob her, and then: ‘you gay?’ – again, a giggle moment – and basically sets her granddaughter up on a date! This was an unexpected but lovely moment of the story, and it was nice to see that even though Alice isn’t all there, she is still able to fulfil her role as a grandmother.
I have to say I didn’t quite get the title of this piece. I thought it would have been called ‘Watching Alice’, considering the subject matter is dementia and Alice is the character who is watched and looked after by others. However, Alice is ‘watching over’ Rosie, even in isolation, so that’s probably the angle intended. I think it’s likely I’m reading too much into this, but because, from the title, I thought Rosie was the grandmother; I got a bit confused when grandmother was called Alice!
A poignant, realistic telling of a sadly true situation, I enjoyed watching this play. Dementia is a syndrome that has unfortunately affected many of us and it is hard enough to endure without a pandemic which isolates those suffering from it. Although acknowledging the unfairness of this disease is not easy to do, the moment captured by this script encourages us to laugh and make light of the little joys that do sprinkle our day, even though we might miss them more often than not.
You can find Watching Rosie here: https://originaltheatreonline.com/productions/3/watching-rosie