Watching Rosie was created by actress and playwright, Louise Coulthard. Her new work centres around the heartbreak caused by COVID-19, specifically focusing on family members who could not see each other during isolation. Her main characters are a young girl and her grandmother, who is living with dementia.
The show was written to raise awareness of the difficulties that dementia can cause, whilst raising money for Dementia UK. Coulthard’s 2018 play, Cockamamy, focuses on the trials and tribulations of caring for her own grandmother, who had dementia.Watching Rosie appears to be another autobiographical play; Alice and Rosie seem to be based on Coulthard and her grandmother.
The short play is directed by the critically-acclaimed Michael Fentiman. At the beginning, his direction sees shocking statistics flash up on-screen about dementia. This montage then cuts to Rosie (Louise Coulthard) and Alice (Miriam Margoyles) on a video call; a simple, but effective, allusion to technology immediately reminds viewers of how heavily they had come to rely on video calls in the height of lockdown.
Immediately, the effects of Alice’s dementia are clear as she holds flowers that are in a vase, upside down. Additionally, she cradles a doll, addressing it as if it is real. Rosie expresses loving concern to her grandmother, asking how she is. Coulthard’s facial expressions represent the emotional effects dementia can have on other family members; a combination of a small smile, with moments where she looks as though she may cry. The reality of the situation is underlined as the emotion is extremely raw.
Later, a hilarious scene ensues, with Alice attempting to matchmake Rosie with the delivery man at her front door. It is all the more sweet and heartfelt because of the blatant awkwardness the pair are faced with when they attempt to speak to each other on video call.
At one point, Alice searches for her dead husband. The scene becomes melancholy and particularly poignant as Rosie reads poetry to Alice. The words allow her to reminisce about her husband, allowing for a heart-wrenching moment for audience and the characters alike. Margoyles speaks slowly, evocative of the cognitive effect dementia has on Alice.
Coulthard’s message seems to be that despite being ‘connected’ on Zoom, lockdown was incredibly difficult for us all, socially and mentally. At one point, Alice says that “being alone is not all it’s cracked up to be”; a stark reminder of the negative impact that being alone can have on people, especially when they are living with dementia.
For further information, support, or to donate to Dementia UK, click here.
Words by Olivia Devereux-Evans.
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