Coinciding with Dementia Awareness Week in May, the Dot Collective have been performing in care centres and theatres in Brighton, Lewes and London. Founded by Laura Harling, the Dot Collective brings professional theatre to people living with dementia, disabilities and physical frailties – people who may be precluded for one reason or another from attending theatres generally. While no strangers to working with classic texts and stories, Found In Translation – the Dot Colllective’s latest tour which is written by Alexander Moschos and Hester Kent in conjuction with feedback from care centre residents – adds a personal flavour to the proceedings. All the plays are directed by Maja Milatovic-Ovadia.
The first of their four short plays is a monologue about a woman in her 30s living with dementia. Performed by Hester Kent, memories of past life dovetail into the present and vice versa, as we follow her through with her emotional stream of consciousness. Other notable plays such as Bryony Lavery’s A Wedding Story and Ayub Khan-Din’s Notes On Falling Trees deal with how dementia affects family members and loved ones, but this play rings of authenticity – deftly drawing from the personal experiences disclosed in workshops with residents. The matter-of-factness of Kent’s character who still lives with her parents is at times very funny, but what really resonated with me was the quality of the wrting. Much of what was said time and living was profound, and I found myself thinking: “That’s a great line. And that. And that…” Of course the delivery and performance are what brought the words to life and as such, I was bowled over by Kent’s rendition. One of the best monologues I’ve had the privilege to see. Period.
Some of the other short plays took a different tact, dealing with life on the coast or on an island. One dealt with a ‘birdman’ who owned an isle, but was resisting selling his land to an affluent property developer (Stuart Turner). However, sampling the local ‘delicacies’ helps the ‘property developer’ to reconsider, setting his mind on ‘higher’ things… Another play dealt with a young woman (Alys Scratchley) who is infatuated with a local lifeguard and swims near him everyday. An accident involving some local actors on the pier forces her to intervene when the lifeguard is momentarily away…
There was one other play that dealt directly with dementia and unlike the first piece performed, introduced an objective- as well as subjective- narrative into the proceedings. Frank (Chris Lewens) is cared for at home. However, for large swathes of time his mind reverts back to when he was a child and as a much younger man. He is haunted by something he done and the jury’s out about whether rudimentary dementia’s to blame for his actions then… The play forces us to question the veracity of what’s been shown and how confusing it must be to not trust what one is thinking and remembering.
Providing work of this quality and accessibility for those who would otherwise not be able to attend theatres is something of a calling and a passion for producer Laura Harling. But judging by the standard and relatability of the material, it’s not produced out of ‘charity’ but as a labour of love.
© Michael Davis 2017
Actors – Hester Kent, Chris Levens, Alys Scratchley, Stuart Turner.
This production toured at the following public venues:
12th May | LAMBETH, LONDON
| 7.30pm | Longfield Hall, 50 Knatchbull Road, London SE5 9QY|
13th May | LEWES, EAST SUSSEX
| 1-8pm | Every Sort of People Festival | Lewes Football Club, The Dripping Pan, Lewes BN7 2XA |
16th May | WESTMINSTER, LONDON
| 11am | Darwin House, Churchill Gardens Estate, 104 Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, London SW1V 3LH |
17th May | SOUTHWARK, LONDON
4.30pm & 8pm | Blue Elephant Theatre, 59A Bethwin Road, London SE5 0XT | http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk |
18th May | BRIGHTON, SUSSEX
| 7pm | The Lecture Room, Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF |
Care centres involved in project: Claydon House, Phoenix Centre (Lewes), Wayfield Avenue, Craven Vale, Ireland Lodge, Knoll House (Brighton), Thamesbank Centre, Norton House, Darwin House (Westminster).