Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

Are there any composers and choreographers who would like to collaborate on a project about Alzheimer’s, memory and Identity.

Kate Maravan - 17 January 2017




participants: Emma Hughes, Finn Cooke, Chantal Guevara, James Nuttall, Morven Macbeth, Adrienne Quartly, Jack Drewry

The following is an excerpt from a report I wrote at a previous D&D, the session I had called was “Mothers with Alzheimer’s”:

“Instead of a focus on loss, death of self, suffering and fear of shifting realities, we explored about the possibility of different and more creative ways of relating with those with Alzheimer’s. An aliveness and connection with the present moment and exploring the language of now; a discovery of the person we are with now rather than an attachment to who we once knew or who we feel they should still be. An invitation to be still, quiet and discover all that lies in the spaces between words and doing. The creating of new and meaningful realities. That relating to someone with dementia is an exchange and can be a creative interaction.
I am very interested in how the dismantling of the fixed notion of identity and personality is part of my Alzheimer’s experience. As my mother shifts, the ground under my feet is shifting. A both frightening and yet totally liberating possibility of redefining one’s relationship to self, others and the world.  I go away inspired by the creative possibilities and an understanding of the potential of Alzheimers to  contribute and enrich.”

The conversation inspired me to start developing a one woman show.

I want to have original music and dance/movement in the piece so I put a call out to any composers and choreographers interested in collaborating.

We had a great session exploring both how music and movement could contribute to and become integral to the piece but also how music and dance can/could be used to engage and support people with Alzheimer’s in a wider context.

As the memory declines especially the short term memory, music and singing can be a way to reconnect , a door to forgotten worlds, feelings and experiences. It can provide a means of communication that is not reliant on the spoken word or more daily forms of engagement. We talked about how people who can barely speak can find their voice through singing and those in an advanced stages of Alzheimer’s can ‘come alive’ with music and singing. Similarily dance can be a way of connecting with the body and experiencing memory through feeling and physical expression. It started me thinking about how I could offer workshops/engage with the community using the project as a bounce board and using music and movement. We talked about how approaching a body like might be a useful re establishing a programme of support/workshops for those with dementia.

I would also be interested in widening the remit to people who are not living with dementia so that the conversation about memory, identity, is relevant to us all.

We referred to Elizabeth Loftus’ work, a psychologist who has created experiments that show we are capable of creating false memories and our often detailed accounts of experiences can be fiction.

The project is in part an exploration of how we tend to define ourselves through our past and potential futures and experience an understandable level of terror at the thought of that dismantling. We talked about non attachment and the book “Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes” was mentioned. It looks at community in the Amazon who have no past or future tense in their language and live as far we understood it in the now. How much can the experience of and conversation Alzheimer’s help us to engage with being present and perceiving self in new and different ways?

The idea of having a live musician on the stage was suggested and allowing an improvisational relationship to develop between musician and performer. This is an exciting possibility as well as looking at how the sound design can explore and reflect different experiences and perceptions of reality and memory.

In so many ways the conversation was inspiring and I made some great new discoveries. I thank all the participants wholeheartedly for their contribution and insights and I look forward to the next stage of development.




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