The Secret Dance Club
C, Edinburgh; August 17, 2015

Lille Hedderwick Turner and David Layne Photo George Peck

Lille Hedderwick Turner and David Layne
Photo George Peck

David Mead

The term ‘dementia’ describes a host of symptoms including memory loss and a difficulty to communicate, but is it that memories have disappeared for ever or more that they have become buried to the extent that they are near unreachable? It’s very much the latter suggests Derbyshire-based collective, The Secret Dance Club, in this powerful and compelling work, and that with the right touch they can, for a moment at least, be rekindled.

Debi Hedderwick is utterly compelling as Anna, who finds herself imprisoned in her world. Her acting is so impressively realistic that one feels it must have been borne out of experience. She stares out and says little, but all time there’s the sense that far from being an empty vessel, hers is a body full of remembrances. All that is needed is the key. That comes courtesy of her loving partner, Jacob (Paddy Turner) who, in an attempt to reconnect her with her past, produces a box of photographs, vinyl records and film.

For a moment there’s a flicker of life in her features when Anna hears a song from her past. More vivid and very powerful is a scene where she imagines her younger self in a mirror. Memories stir more when Jack plays a film that is full of the joys of them as a young couple. Yet for all the happiness, all the time overwhelming mood of poignancy and sadness at what has become remains. In the moments of stillness that punctuate the work, a loud ticking but unseen clock cleverly and effectively symbolises the passing of time.

Present-day Anna’s memories are given ghostly life by Lille Hedderwick Turner and David Layne as the younger couple. Their choreography is hugely expressive. They have fun, they embrace, they love, they argue, they make-up. Best is one long duet towards the end that is tender and caring, and full of soft, gentle supports as they wrap themselves around each other.

Camera Obscura doesn’t go anywhere. It ends as it starts. In a way that’s so appropriate. After all, the nature of dementia is that there is no cure. Threads are left hanging, questions left unanswered. What happened to the daughter seen in the past but not in the present? What happens to Jacob and Anna next? I left wanting more, but maybe that’s just how it should be.