SALISBURY playwright Barney Norris’ beautifully written play Visitors got the city’s celebration of regional theatre entitled Theatre Fest West off to a gripping and touching start.

The play, set on a farm on Salisbury Plain, follows a devoted couple who must come to terms with the wife’s rapidly developing dementia as they face a new and frightening future.

Childhood sweethearts Arthur and Edie have spent a lifetime together.

But their unity has pushed their petulant and emotionally immature son Stephen away.

As Edie’s illness develops Stephen’s solution is first to get a home help – in the form of the troubled yet effervescent Kate – and then sell the farm and move his mother into a care home.

Visitors throws up many interesting questions about family roles and responsibilities and the differences between the lives inherited by many of our grandparents and the seemingly free choices that today’s young people take for granted but don’t always bring happiness.

Norris’ insightful script is full of thought-provoking, beautiful lines and often his writing is poetic.

He also has a sharp sense of humour and Visitors brought laughter and tears in equal measure.

The performances of the cast of four were excellent throughout, with keenly observed portrayals of very believable characters who could easily be our own parents, grandparents or children.

Linda Bassett perfectly fluctuated between Edie’s moments of pure clarity and utter confusion and Robin Soans dealt with Arthur’s changing role from patriarchal farmer to devoted carer with compassion and a sense of humour.

Eleanor Wyld shone as Kate – her use of silence as brilliant as her delivery of her lines – and as the play progressed Simon Muller grew into the role of the sulky and unlikeable Stephen, a grown man who never really grew up.

Smart direction from Salisburyborn Alice Hamilton further enhanced Norris’ mature and well considered script and between them they have produced a play that stays with the audience long after they leave the theatre.