Review An Evening with Dementia at the Cotswold Playhouse WELL, I certainly did not expect to find myself in a full house for this one.

Not everybody's cup of tea, I thought. The audience entered to find a dark stage, spotlight centring on an old man sprawled in a chair with blankets covering his legs and his right hand shaking uncontrollably.

Ex Royal Shakespeare Company actor Trevor T Smith is touring his one-man play about an old actor reminiscing about his life, expressing frequent strong opinions and revealing his innate shrewdness which he employs as a defence mechanism.

Throughout this absorbing play there was frequent loud laughter from the mixed age audience, intermingled with longish periods of silence.

Perhaps the younger people in the audience laughed the loudest; perhaps the laughter from the older ones was tinged with nervousness.

The actor told many amusing stories but these did not erase our consciousness of the plight of this elderly gentleman, seemingly isolated in his world of ancient memories. For the purposes of the play his dementia is comparatively minor and he tells us that 'if you sit very still nobody will think there's anything wrong with you'.

So that people will think he is fairly normal, he lets his eyes 'rest with mock recognition on anyone who comes near' him. "My trick," he says, "is to pretend to be slightly deaf".

All these remarks drew forth much laughter from the audience but there were many moments of sadness as, for example, when he clearly fails to recognise his own children.

Sadly, he says on another occasion "I don't know myself any more."

But the overall feeling we are left with is an old, lonely man to whom this dialogue with himself seems the most natural thing in the world.

We are glad to learn that the modern world is not entirely unknown to him - talking about the importance of teaching arithmetic and English to the young, he asserts that the most important thing they should be taught is kindness.

At the end of this compelling performance Trevor Smith sprang from his chair, beaming and straight-backed, to take several bows from an audience loud in its praise.

Donald Hollins