Vere (Paul Blackwell) is an eccentric physicist with dreams of discovering the ‘God particle’. Disrupting his plans is the diagnosis of rapid onset dementia. So begins John Doyle’s new play, inspired in part by caring for his own father during some of his darkest battles with dementia.
Act one begins in the university staff room with Vere intent on keeping the news from his colleagues, amidst witty, ribald banter. This is the comedic Doyle at his best. Act two is a dinner party with escalating tensions between Atheists and ‘flat-earth’ Christians. Here the characters become caricature-like and lack nuance, perhaps deliberately so, as the focus is on the intense poignancy of Vere moving in and out of lucidity, slowly losing his mind.
Blackwell is the centrepiece and under tender direction from Sarah Goodes, is deeply moving. Rebecca Massey is joyously rude as both the f-bombing colleague and the tactless believer.
Vere raises deep questions but offers unsatisfying answers. After all, life means something, doesn’t it? (GW)
Until Dec 7, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, $55-90, 92501777, sydneytheatre.com.au