Review: Demented

Set up as a rip-roaring comedy, Demented falls short of the mark


James is 67 and suffering from dementia. He behaves impishly, jumbles up his thoughts and words and regularly forgets his name. But in Gary Mitchell’s new comedy for the Lyric Theatre, his abnormal normality is nothing compared with those around him. For while James (a sprightly Roy Heayberd) is merely demented, his fellow characters will reveal themselves to be completely unhinged and desperate.

On the surface, bank manager Justin (Richard Orr), his discontented wife Stacey (Jo Donnelly) and errant son Joshua (Gavin Peden) seem a fairly orthodox suburban family. At home, James is devotedly cared for by his son Andrew (Ian Beattie), recently separated from his wife and children. Meanwhile, paraplegic neighbour Keith (Michael Liebmann) is adored by his attractive girlfriend Felicity (Roisin Gallagher) for his outlandish behaviour and sexual prowess.

Mitchell is an old hand at subverting convention at the drop of an expletive, a flourish of anarchic behaviour and a large dose of political incorrectness. Suddenly, ordinary everyday life is awash with drug dealing, marital infidelity, a ludicrous bank robbery and a pensioner in a Hannibal Lecter mask. Out of the blue and with scant preamble, Liebmann’s manic Keith lures James and Andrew into an ill-conceived heist, a vendetta upon Justin for the road accident that confined him to a wheelchair.


While concept and script are promising, Richard Croxford’s production underlines just how tricky a task the effective delivery of stage comedy is. There is an odd sense of unease among what is, on the whole, a strong cast, some of whom struggle to deliver their lines with fluency and self-belief. The scenes unfold neatly and predictably between the two halves of Stuart Marshall’s set – on one side, the sitting room of James’s bungalow; on the other, Stacey’s squeaky clean, nicely appointed kitchen.

The plot gathers a surreal momentum until it explodes into a bizarre, gun-toting raid, which could and should be hilarious but is not. What is intended as a rip-roaring comedy falls short of the mark and feels a little too much like hard work. Runs until May 24

Jane Coyle

Jane Coyle is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture