Mark Lockyer has no problem remembering his lines!
“Did you know Alzheimer was a friend of Hitler?”
Starring the remarkable Mark Lockyer is the one man show Take Off Your Cornflakes about Tom a bus driver who develops early onset dementia at age 53. Playing all the characters in this show, Lockyer will switch from caring and long suffering wife Trish to ex-colleague Frank in Australia, and son Shane and daughter Kelly.
He has the kind of face that is looking more and more like one of those described by Charles Dickens with such a range of expression and body language and vocal modulation that not for one minute do we have any doubt who it is speaking. I noticed when Trish was comforting Tom, as she spoke, she would place her hand on his, conveyed by Lockyer’s left hand holding his right hand.
What would make me the happiest man in the world? “To drive the Number 29 bus down Seven Sisters Road, with the winning Arsenal team in it, having just won the double!” Little things start to go wrong. Tom can’t find the car in the service station car park, he can’t remember where Trish and he spent their honeymoon, he misses the bus conductors from the depot, who had all left by 2005.
They are drawn into remedies and cures for dementia. Tom will answer quizzes and do crosswords as brain training; they will read how someone who couldn’t draw a clock managed it perfectly after consuming the miracle that is coconut oil. This is the thing isn’t it, with conventional medicine offering no cures, all kinds of quackery bring hope? They will go to meetings at the local Alzheimer Society and Trish will take their advice not to get into conflict or argue but to find ways of agreeing to lighten any tension.
This is as much Trish’s story as Tom’s because of her remarkable patience and resilience. Tom will go and stay at the Orchard for her to have respite care so she can visit their grown up daughter. Unfortunately Tom doesn’t have the retention to support Trish when she has a suspected tumour. Only once does she say to Tom, “It’s convenient, this disease, isn’t it Tom?” when again he doesn’t meet her needs.
This intensely human narrative is delivered naturally with no mawkishness or self pity. It is something that many of us will face with a loved one. There are of course moments of joy and humour often as they recall days when they first met. Towards the end there will be anger and paranoia, side effects of the medication as he descends into shouting dementia.
I have followed Mark Lockyer’s acting since my children were small and he would play with David Haig in the Christmas plays like The Prisoner of Zenda at Greenwich Theatre. I remember him as the sleazy headmaster in Marius von Mayenburg’s play Martyr about the newly devout Christian schoolboy with Ramin Gray directing from ATC, but crowning it all was as the best Iago, certainly of his generation, maybe of all time, in Othello for ETT with Abraham Popoola in the title role.
Take Off Your Cornflakes
Written by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan
Directed by Michael Kingsbury
Director: Michael Kingsbury
Running Time: 65 minutes without an interval
Booking at the White Bear to 12th June
The White Bear
138 Kennington Park Road
London SE11 4DJ
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the White Bear
on 4th June 2021