Chapter Arts Centre
Twice nominated for the Theatre Critic’s of Wales Awards, life story theatre company Re-Live are returning to the stage with a new agenda – to start the conversation about dementia.
Dementia affects over 800,000 people in the UK yet, like many mental illnesses, it still carries stigma. It has become a taboo subject, something best left behind closed doors. Re-Live want to break down the barriers surrounding those suffering with dementia and allow discussion to take place about how those affected can be supported to live long and active lives within the community.
This new performance, Belonging, will be a departure from their usual style of verbatim theatre where members of the public perform their own stories. This time a scripted piece will be performed by professional actors. Like all their work this production has taken months of research and the script is inspired by real life accounts of what it is like to live with dementia or be a carer for someone affected by the syndrome. The performance will be followed by a discussion, no doubt one that will cause many to consider the resonances of the performance in their own lives.
Re-Live were kind enough to invite me into a rehearsal for the show last week and now I just can’t wait to see the whole thing. Performed to an audience on two sides the piece allows the actors to create a relationship with the audience and invite them in to their own private thoughts. The script centres around Sheila, who has been diagnosed with dementia and looks at how she and those around her are affected by the diagnosis. The 4 strong cast are accompanied by a 3 piece band who punctuate the action and add even more emotion to the most poignant moments.
From the sections I saw it was clear that this will be another heartrending production from Re-Live, but it was beautifully punctuated with their characteristic humour and light. Like all of their productions honesty seems to be the key driving force behind the performances, an honesty that is impossible to ignore or dismiss.
As a company Re-Live have been delivering a training course, ‘Experiencing Dementia’ for a few years now. This has stemmed from director Karin Diamond’s work alongside Dr Yukimi Uchide who revolutionised dementia care in Japan. The innovative documentary theatre company have delivered this training to a whole range of people from actors to care workers. One care home asked that ALL staff be given the experiential training from the cooks and cleaners to the care directors and administrators – so all could understand the needs of their residents.
Through this production the company hope to inspire social action and a sense of community responsibility. Of course the main objective is awareness, although most people will have been in some way affected by dementia, how many of us actually know what it feels like for the person living with the condition?
This is the first stage in a whole range of projects discussing dementia. This production is able to tour anywhere as there is no set. It is hoped the piece could be shown to doctors and nurses, perhaps even in GPs waiting rooms. Long term the production will be adapted for young audiences, around the age of 7. This is the age when people can start to form their own opinions on things and by educating children about dementia now, they will grow up to be more aware and considerate towards those who may need help or support in the future.
As if all this wasn’t enough of a challenge Re-Live will also be creating one of their signature documentary performances with members of the local community who live with dementia. It is hoped that this second production will be able to highlight the different forms of the syndrome including rare early onset dementia. This production will carry all kinds of challenges from the simple things, like will the performers be able to remember their lines, to ethical considerations surrounding consent and the capacity to give that consent. Of course the company are used to working in these kind of challenging circumstances and it is part of the reason why their productions are always so moving and affective.
Belonging is being performed for the first time in Chapter Arts this week to an invited audience. If you would like more information on the company or the show, especially if you would be interested in booking a performance, please visit Re-Live’s website here.
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