Around 38% of the population have a family member or close friend living with dementia. What is it really like to suffer from dementia…and what is it like for the carers and families of those affected?
This theatre company are aiming to use performance to understand and explore the world around us, facing bigger issues in accessible and entertaining ways, using full-mask theatre.
In Finding Joy, they are using masks to unmask the myths and challenges of dementia, and speaking up for people using silence.
The whole performance is carried out using movement and music and silent acting. It sounds unusual, and when I went to see it at The Point in Eastleigh, I really didn’t know what to expect. Would I understand it? Would I be able to relate, without having any personal experiences of dementia?
I really had nothing to worry about.
Finding Joy tells the story of Joy, her family, and their experiences with dementia. We see the condition through her eyes, and the eyes of her grandson Danny, and her harassed daughter.
The audience are taken on a journey through Joy’s life, watching her family cope with her odd ways, witnessing her distress and confusion. Despite the generational differences, her grandson Danny finds an unexpected connection with his grandmother and the dementia seems to bring them closer and closer together.
With Finding Joy, silence speaks louder than words ever could.
Even if you yourself are not caring for a friend or family member with dementia, you will find yourself relating to each character, putting yourself in their shoes and feeling deeply for each and every one.
I found it personal, touching and very emotional; and I really felt for those in the audience with a closer connection to the cause than I. It was a very powerful experience, and I learned a lot.
A small cast of just four actors transforms into an entire community and the team bring so many characters to life with humour and care. Some are realistic and relatable, and others are caricatures of people we’ve all had the pleasure of meeting: the caring male nurse, the self-sure doctor; the hoody on the corner with his pants on show!
Vamos Theatre did a wonderful job of bringing humour into a very serious subject, and there were moments which were incredibly funny. I found myself laughing one moment and crying the next. I had a lump in my throat throughout the entire performance, and found myself simultaneously wiping tears of joy and sadness from my cheeks at the same time.
This play ensures that people with dementia are not seen just an NHS statistic, a burden, a worry or an inconvenience. The focus is not on the diagnosis, or the cure, but on Joy herself, and her past, loves, dislikes and personality.
Finding Joy also explores what it’s like for carers; the difficulties, the despair, the burden and the confusion. In between the troublesome times, there are poignant moments of normality and connection between the characters.
Yes, the performance is a story about finding an elderly lady with dementia (both literally, and finding out more about her personality through the fog of illness); but it’s also about finding joy in the moments you have with loved ones, when times are hard, in the simplest of ways.
I really could go on more and more about this play; it was a really wonderful experience and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it since.
I highly recommend that you go and see Finding Joy. Vamos Theatre will be touring around the UK until mid-November, so catch them while you can.