Devising and Dementia

Convener(s): Sam Smith  (Parrot{in the}Tank)          

Participants: Verity (Magic Me, Living Structures)


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

  • How can devising aid us in our understanding or our approach to Dementia care?
  • What exploratory and investigative techniques found in collaborative and devised theatre can be utilised to enhance our interaction with sufferers of Alzheimer’s?
  • What do people’s experiences of caring for Alzheimer’s patients tell us about the requirements there are for meaningful interaction to take place? 

Anecdotal evidence from people who have encountered Alzheimer’s disease talks of the hardships, but also the moments of magic; the breakthrough revelations, flashes of character, unknown skills unearthed. For these to happen require space, time and freedom. They can’t be forced. Can the way we’d prepare a rehearsal room to be an atmospheric, fertile, stimulating environment tell us about authoring meaningful interaction?


We may have made more questions than conclusions! But we talked about:

  • ‘Play’ in devising and how structures need to be put in place to allow us to feel free enough to lose the inhibitions holding us back.
  • The inhibition stripping nature Alzheimer’s can have, and noted the childlike open mindedness this is similar to.
  • How important being open minded is when fostering communication with a sufferer, if they cannot talk for example. What do you look to then? What parameters can you put in place to entreat interaction? How can this be done outside of institutions as part of your normal day to day relationship with a patient?
  • Structuring exchange between Care homes, family and patients. Can rehearsal room techniques for exploring the world of a play/the core of an issue, be used to inform the care each patient receives?

(Example of an elderly Man in America who would gather all of the wheelchairs from the hospice and line them up in the main corridor. He would then gather all of the restraining straps from wards and tie each chair  the handrail. Staff left him to his own devises but it was understood to be a protest, until a family member pointed out he was a cowboy until the age of 18; He was tying the horses to the hitching post at the end of a day of work).

  • Attitudes encountered in care homes about creative interventions, singing workshops, movement workshops etc. “They won’t be able to do that“… How damaging and restrictive a prescriptive attitude such as this could be.
  • Magic Me’s charity work in care homes. (Cocktails & Carehomes)