Austin Michaels (played by Dylan Cole) has been a scrabble world champion. This man knows lots of thousands of words and how to use them. However, having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease he is experience slippage. Letters forming words are increasingly confusing and it starts to feel as if it is count down to a dark ending where the familiar lexicon becomes a dark place with those scrabble tiles appearing blank or as good as.
His memories are shared with us. He tells us of his greatest achievements, before his mind becomes forever blank but he digresses along with way, sharing thoughts and amusing anecdotes, prompted by tying to remember letters and their scores. Two syllables – granny and suddenly there is a moment of luminosity – gran’s house, 8 points, and then we have a story to recall and share, a moment remembered.
Cole is subtle in his characterisation and slowly draws us into this world of the obsessive, ‘eat, sleep. Scrabble’ as he tersely informs us. He is an avid Star Trek fan and a stickler for detail but details are slipping away so he finds it necessary to write things on a posit. They are prompts to memory, an increasingly vague wilderness. Austin records messages and a to-do lists, as anchors for a world that seems to be drifting away. However, there are flashes of a life. Daisy Bench, whom he remembered he loves. He recalls being motivated by Derrin Hinds self-help books, he once studied, there were acceptance speeches to learn, there real moments of lucidity – when aspirin was recognised and remembered – and then there was the on coming darkness, where all the self-help books or memorising techniques cannot help.
This is clever and absorbing material and given how the subject could be alienating it is original in approach and highly creative in its delivery. Cole talks of a fading wind but his not a fading talent. He offers a sense of dignity in this eclipse of the mind.