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Moving play deals with thought-provoking issue of dementia
Anyone who has cared for someone with dementia or watched a loved one struggle to cope with this cruel degenerative condition cannot fail to be moved by this wonderful piece of theatre. The outstanding Vamos Theatre Company has produced this bittersweet play in order to celebrate the carers of people with dementia. And they successfully convey the thought-provoking subject of people battling with dementia, and those who live with them, without a single word of dialogue.
Danny and Joy in Finding Joy. Credit Graeme Braidwood
Finding Joy, which appears at the Lichfield Garrick theatre on October 26 and 27, sees all four members of the cast wearing masks throughout the play, in keeping with Vamos Theatre's reputation as the UK's leading full mask company. Joy, who is the clear focal point of the story, is celebrating her 83rd birthday with her daughter and grandson, Danny. But it soon becomes apparent that her forgetfulness hides a far bigger problem, as the mental ravages of dementia gradually eat away at her. However, into the bleak picture comes young, rebellious Danny who discovers a common bond, and a shared sense of fun and play, with his grandmother that leaves a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye of most members of the audience who attended the Lichfield Garrick on its opening night.
83 year old Joy relives her wartime evacuation as a child. Credit Graeme Braidwood
While Joy and Danny share humorous and moving moments in equal measure, in particular when she poignantly starts to dance with her grandson, Joy's earlier life is also told in the form of flashbacks. We see the young Joy evacuated from her home as a girl during World War Two, and later when she falls in love and marries her husband and goes on to have a daughter of her own. But in the 83-year-old Joy's deteriorating mind, she finds herself re-living that past as if it was today, in particular having watched a home video of herself as a child with her mother. And, yes, the outstanding cast manages to convey all this feeling and emotion without saying a word. In fact, the only noise is provided by a soundtrack which combines gentle music with the sound of traffic and a football match commentary.
Joy blocks the TV as Danny and his friend try to watch football. Credit Graeme Braidwood
The central characters of Joy at 83 and grandson Danny are wonderfully played by Bidi Iredale and Aron De Casmaker respectfully, while Louise Mellor superbly takes on the roles of Joy in flashback at the age of both 25 and eight - as well as Joy's grown-up daughter. The cast also appear as various other characters, all wearing different masks of course, including the 25-year-old Joy's husband, Danny's mate, a crotchety old woman in hospital, a doctor and various nurses. Finding Joy, which courageously but successfully deals with the subject of dementia, is written and directed by Rachael Savage, with Russell Dean being responsible for making the excellent masks.
Young Joy, her husband and baby enjoy a picnic. Credit Graeme Braidwood
Finding Joy, which is suitable for those aged 12 and upwards, is supported by Arts Council England and Worcestershire County Council, and was developed in association with The Hereford Courtyard, with inspiration from movement-play specialists JABADAO. The play can be seen again at the Lichfield Garrick theatre on October 27 with tickets costing from £13.50 to £16.50 available online or by calling the box office on 01543 412121.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Joy finds herself in hospital after a fall. Credit Graeme Braidwood