Three Tall Women, Norwich

JOHN LAWSON The humour in Edward Albee's stunning play makes it just about possible to bear. This is harrowing theatre, but writing of such depth of passion and emotion that it is quite simply one of the must-see shows of the year.

JOHN LAWSON

The humour in Edward Albee's stunning play makes it just about possible to bear.

This is harrowing theatre, but writing of such depth of passion and emotion that it is quite simply one of the must-see shows of the year.

Director Clare Goddard has assembled a matchless cast and Dot Binns gives a towering first-half performance as an elderly woman whose mind is losing its battle with Alzheimer's Disease.

I found the show particularly difficult to watch as I had witnessed my own mother take the same route, succumbing like the character to a disabling and ultimately fatal stroke.

But in Ms Binns performance – and Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning script – I also saw the things that made my mother such a joy in her latter years: the tumbling reminiscences, the unexpected humour, even the sadness of her own frustration.

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Her middle-aged carer (Susan Seddon) introduces her young lawyer (Chloe Burt) to visions of her own mortality.

In the first half, the duo play very much the supporting roles, but have their own time in the sun after the interval when the three characters merge into a "three ages of woman" single being, the younger women each hoping against hope that they can break the mould of their own destiny.

Albee's work had lived for two long in the shadow of his first full-length play, Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but this remarkable insight into the female pscyhe and the inevitability of life's movement towards death proved the perfect return to form. But it still relies on great performances to make you care for the characters to the level his writing deserves.

And in that he would be proud of Mesdames Binns, Seddon and Burt. The Maddermarket deserves to be full to bursting between now and the end of the run on Saturday June 8.

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