Our first ‘Lost in Memories’ event took place last week, as part of the Being Human Festival. I’m really pleased with how the performance was received. I very much hope that this will be the first of many events, so watch this space for more blogs! Here are my initial thoughts…
The event started with a short performance about dementia and caring. More info about the performance here. We then took a short break, followed by a facilitated audience discussion. We invited the audience provide feedback on the performance, share their responses to the piece and share their own experiences of dementia.
I was particularly pleased with the extent to which people shared their personal experiences during the post-show discussion. My main aim with this project was to get people talking about the topics within the piece. Many people said they identified with parts of the performance. Interestingly people said it raised thoughts and questions about family relationships, memory and ageing generally, not just in relation to dementia. In a previous post, I talked about theatre can give people permission to discuss difficult topics. I definitely think we saw that at this event.
“As someone living with dementia I really enjoyed the event and identified with lots of the content” (Audience Member)
Setting the tone
The team and I were particularly concerned about getting the tone of the performance, and the event, right. During the show’s development we heard a variety of stories which ranged from truly heartbreaking to hopeful, humorous and silly. Everyone experiences dementia differently, and it was challenging to do justice to that spectrum of experiences in one performance.
I’m pleased to say that several audience members commented on the balanced tone of the performance. Working with people who have personal experience of the topic really helped us to get that balance. I also think that the style of the piece helped. By using a selection of short stories, rather than one single narrative, we were able to show a mix of experiences. The more abstract elements were intended to leave room for people to add their own interpretation and meaning. It was really interesting to see how people’s personal experiences impacted on their interpretation of the piece.
“Great to see Lost in Memories offer such a balanced view of dementia. Powerful stories of caring & living” (Audience Member)
The little things
We made a conscious effort to create a welcoming and relaxed environment at the event. We chose a community venue (rather than a theatre); created displays for people to look at during the break; played music chosen by carers; and event provided some home baked snacks (courtesy of Isabelle!)
I believe that the overall feel of an event can have a big impact on the way in which people interact with each other and contribute. The downside of a more informal community venue was the site lines. A couple of people commented that a raised stage would have allowed them to see the action better.
I would like to try similar events at different venues and with different audiences. It may be possible to tailor the post-show discussion so that it focuses on specific issues which are relevant in a particular setting. For example focusing on research, services, care etc.
Thank you to everyone involved in creating the performance and running the event. for a full list of credits see our project page
Image credits Fresh Cut