Set in a psychiatric hospital in the intimate confines of the Bluestone Arts Space, the building lends an eerie quality to this drama with snippets of very dark humour. demens centres around two troubled patients, Allan and Lilith, and two equally disturbed members of staff; creepy Nurse Gabriel and an unsettling Dr Osmond.
Lilith yearns for an end to her mental anguish by lobotomy and innocent eyed Allan is obsessed with people disappearing at sea. He is also fearful of his mother’s judgement about his sexuality. Jai Luke puts on a strong performance, particularly when Allan is contrasted with his evil and violent personality, Stan who comes out sporadically to exert his machismo. Louise Crawford is striking as Lilith, imbuing her character with pathos, vulnerability and conviction.
Religious fanatic, Nurse Gabriel, is a little too involved with the lives of his patients Lilith and Allan. His concern for them borders on obsession, and Philip Cristian Claassen balances his character’s piousness with the right amount of creepiness. Don Bridges Dr Osmond is played with finesse and subtlety. He appears to have it together but lurking beyond the surface is a troubled mind and soul, hiding a dirty secret.
Demens dragged on a little too long towards the end and lost some of the momentum that was established early on. But despite this minor hiccup, strong performances, keen direction by Natasha Broadstock and well written material, never allow the play to descend into melodrama or cliche and along with the lighting, projections and a menacing soundtrack, help to impart a quality to demens that makes it linger on in the minds of the audience long after the cast take their final bows.