This evening was the first time I have ever attended a “relaxed” theatre performance, primarily aimed at promoting inclusion for those with dementia. Prior to the show we were given the opportunity to get to know the cast (James Greaves, Louise Mellor, Bidi Iredale and Sarah Nelson) and told to watch and interact in whichever way served us best.
Having known, and cared for people in various stages of dementia, it struck me how even a simple activity such as going to the theatre could become more of an ordeal than a pleasure. In order to counteract this Vamos Theatre dim the house lights but not fully, don’t mind talking, don’t allocate specific seats, and encourage the audience to respond however the mood takes them.
“Finding Joy” is the story of an everyday family living with the inevitable passing of time, and the tribulations of growing old. Despite the lack of words and masks with only one expression, the show shares unlimited truths with its audience. A gentle start was quickly succeeded by a hilarious scene depicting life for two young men who could be our neighbours, our sons, or merely unknown faces on the bus. I particularly appreciated the use of Super Sharp Shooter.. Ironically a song probably unknown by anyone under 30 these days!
Every scene was intricately designed to stir the senses.. Fear, frustration, amusement, empathy, and many more. Having spent time in hospitals as an employee and a patient I was in absolute stitches when the HCA and then consultant appeared.. Observational humour at its finest.
For me, Finding Joy hits the nail on the head because of its attention to detail without straying into the patronising, preachy realms that so often overshadow otherwise winning performances. Its sincerity and authenticity shines through in every step, every head tilt, every hand hold. I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears as I watched the relationship between Joy and her grandson develop – raw compassion and love eminating from the stage in continual waves.
Vamos Theatre are certainly ones to watch, and I’m really excited to see they have a new show “A Brave Face” touring in 2019 – as someone who has friends suffering from PTSD following military service I can’t wait to see how the show will be put together.
An inspiring, humbling and enjoyable evening all round, what an absolute pleasure.