2 Jun 2021 - 12 Jun 2021
White Bear Theatre
Take Off Your Cornflakes
by Rose Henderson & Pat Nolan, adapted by Mark Lockyer
by Rose Henderson & Pat Nolan
adapted by Mark Lockyer
directed by Michael Kingsbury
designed by Geraldine Williams
Tom loves a laugh! But it’s no joke when he can’t even remember where he’s parked the car...let alone where he's left the biscuits.
When Tom is diagnosed with early on-set dementia at only 53, life changes dramatically as he navigates the unpredictable years he has left with his wife Trish. Searingly funny without a hint of self-pity, this visceral play about a subject that touches us all smashes through the boundaries of what it means to care and how we truly love…
“This is an acutely observed piece that comes from lived experience. It has an authentic dignity which affirms that love and good humour can coexist with heartbreak. Brilliant…”
FIONA CHARLTON. IRISH SUNDAY TIMES.
MARK LOCKYER/adaptation/performer. The National Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Old Vic, The Young Vic, The Royal Court. Notable roles include Iago in ‘Othello’ for the EET, Subtle in ‘The Alchemist’ for the RSC, The Devil in a film of Stravinsky’s ‘The Soldiers Tale’ with The Halle Orchestra, Manchester conducted by Sir Mark Elder. His hit show “Living with The Lights On” sold out at The Young Vic, and has toured the UK twice, as well as sell-out runs in Helsinki, Barcelona, and Madrid.
Click here for a Video Message from Mark Lockyer
Q&A with Mark Lockyer
Mark, what drew you initially to the story of Take Off Your Cornflakes?
Tom and Trish are a married couple but Tom is diagnosed with dementia at only 53. This is a story about love between two people. It is very moving and totally engaging. Above all, it made me laugh out loud, consistently! The play also focuses on the point of view of the carer and how hard it is for them as well as the person with the disease. When I first saw the original play in Ireland in 2020, I was absolutely gripped and wanted to bring it to the UK immediately. At the time, I had a relative with dementia and the whole family was struggling with its consequences. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are part of many families now. It’s a story that needs to be told. The strength of the play is that it sees both sides of a complex issue with humour and sadness, always delicately balanced.
How do you strike the delicate balance between a sad topic like dementia and humour?
Anyone with experience of dementia in the family will tell you that there is sadness and humour. You have to find the humour because even the most tragic things can be funny. Humour is an important safety valve and it’s crucial to find humour in a play. After all, it is a piece of entertainment. As a writer, it’s about being sensitive to what each moment of the story requires.
You mentioned that the story has been adapted for London audiences, how?
The original story is set in Dublin, both characters are Irish and they refer to the city intimately. In adapting the play and with a view to performing it, I had to accept that as I’m not Irish, I couldn’t do the play justice in its original setting - it would have been foolish to try. With the blessing of the original writers, I set about lifting the exact same story to North London: an area I know and a place that would resonate with London audiences too. In my scenario, Tom and Trish are local residents and have English voices. Tom is a bus driver and drives the London buses. They deal with the illness together in a series of snapshot scenes over a number of years.
Tell me a little about the characters of Tom and Trish? What is their relationship and how does it change?
Tom and Trish are a working class couple with no airs or graces. Tom loves the buses and Trish is a mother of two and a housewife. They are exactly the kind of people, who would have lived on my street when I was a kid. They both love dancing and Tom loves his shed. They are simple, loving people and are devoted to one another. This is a normal family hit by illness. Their story is happening every day now in many households.
When Tom is diagnosed with dementia, the balance of their relationship shifts as Trish becomes a carer. The conflict in Trish between loving her husband and having to witness his deterioration is painful and causes a natural resentment that she is losing Tom to the illness. In my adaptation, I really wanted to highlight Trish’s pain and dilemma. I saw that conflict in my own family. Being a carer to someone you love is visceral and painful. The play’s strength is that it shines a light on those difficult feelings. That’s important and honest. However, the counterbalance is that Tom never loses his sense of humour. He is, for the most part, engaging and very amusing. Both characters complement each other very well.
Why and how did you make this into a one-person show?
It was a mixture of things. I was going to perform it originally with another actor but then the pandemic happened and rehearsing with another person became difficult due to the restrictions. However, a chance reading of the play with some friends was a turning point. I was told by my pals that it worked very well and doing it solo actually added something. When two people love each other very much over a number of years, my experience is that they become intertwined. This is true of Tom and Trish. Each knows what the other is thinking. Telepathy, if you will. It comes through familiarity, time, and love. Playing both characters at the same time seemed very natural to me. Two people become one - literally.
What do you want the audience to take away from Take Off your Cornflakes?
I don’t have any expectations about what an audience might take away from the show. That is personal to the individual audience members. Of course, I hope they enjoy it, but I don’t write anything to try to manipulate feelings in an audience. I want people to feel whatever they want to feel. My job is to tell the story to the best of my ability and go home. The rest is out of my hands.
Both Take Off Your Cornflakes and your previous show Living with the Lights On tell the story of people surviving and living with challenging conditions that other people can find difficult to understand. Why are these types of stories so important to you?
I’m bi-polar. I’ve had experiences with my illness that made me think other people, who might not know about the issue, might perhaps find interesting. That’s why I wrote my first play, Living with The Lights On. As it was personal and about an illness that most people knew nothing about, it was new territory for a story. Theatre can be informative and educational in that regard. The family and its dynamics are fascinating. An audience can relate to that because they may see themselves and their own families in the story.
My second play, Keep on Walking Federico was also about family and the secrets we keep. It’s about the identity of who we are, where we come from and the grief of losing a parent. Again, it seemed to touch people. We all have secrets and skeletons in the cupboard. God knows, they can be useful! However, I’m interested in the things we don’t want to talk about. All I did was shed some light on my own experiences, which allowed others to see their own.
Dementia is also about family and family dynamics. If not directly, we all know someone who has a relative or friend that is suffering. It’s important we share the difficult things. It’s a subject which affects us all but in these conflicts, we also find that there’s great drama. Ultimately, it’s all about the story. You have to have a good story. A good story is everything. We love stories in all sorts of forms. Look at the great TV soaps. It’s an ongoing story that we immerse ourselves in two or three times a week and more. Our favourite films all have great stories and the same is true of good theatre.
£16 Full Price
Mon - Sat 7pm
Sat mattinee 2pm
Concessions are only accepted for pensioners, unemployed, students and under-16s.