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Performance takes place at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 180 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1QS, Scotland

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      28.08.2008 09:19
      Very helpful



      3rd to 25th August 2008.

      Eleanor Bennet's debut play invites the audience on an intimate exploration of the frequently overlooked world occupied by the elderly and those around them. 'Off Her Trolley' has been nominated for Amnesty's Freedom of Expression award for its insightful take on a difficult subject, and it's commendable just how frankly Bennet tackles the issue of Alzheimer's and its effects on the inflicted, their families and their carers, through the use of three very different personas.

      The most prominent character is a somewhat eccentric woman with a preoccupation for various items lost in the seemingly infinite, TARDIS-esque recesses of her shopping trolley, who speaks about her work in a care home with the detached honesty and flippancy of experience. Her second character, a young carer, is more exclusively present for comic relief to avoid the performance becoming too heavy-going, but even this light-hearted juvenile, reminiscent of something from Catherine Tate's show, is tinged with satirical stabs at the low pay and hard work involved in such a job.

      The third character acts as the straight woman of the piece, confessing at arbitrary intervals the difficulties of looking after an elderly relative while balancing family commitments and a full-time job, before the context dawns on the audience as the play draws to its conclusion. Bennet uses mannerisms and minimal visual aids to differentiate between the characters, keeping their respective ages intriguingly ambiguous.

      When not instructing, Bennet's monologues find plenty of time to entertain, crossing over into stand-up comedy with a little audience participation thrown in, and the central musical number about the duties of a carer will doubtless remain in your head for the rest of the day, whether you like it or not. There's plenty of humour throughout, from cheap laughs to somewhat macabre and vivid descriptions of death, and this prevents the script from becoming too bogged down in its own morality.

      Eleanor Bennet's play won't stop Alzheimer's, but it does a fine job of communicating its effects to an intimate gathering in one of the Edinburgh Fringe's more delightfully obscure venues.


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