Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to become a Dementia Friend, and watch a production of Still Alice by Sheffield Theatres.
As those of you who have read my post on why we need to take more photos in our day to day lives will probably know, my nan has dementia so it is a topic that is very close to my heart.
When we first started to suspect she had dementia, I did what I always do and researched the condition as much as possible. I learnt what to expect, how her behaviour and emotions might be effected, and even looked into what causes dementia to occur.
But what those journals and articles could never get across was just what it is like to live with dementia.
It’s true I’ve seen how it effects my nan; I’ve watched her slowly loose the wit and sarcasm that was always her defining characteristic. I’ve seen her push away cups of tea because there are goldfish swimming around in it, or had her shout at me in frustration because I can’t see the children or animals that she can.
But what I failed to understand was what she must be going through in her own mind, while all this is going on.
That is until I watched Still Alice.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was crying for a good majority of the performance; in a lot of ways it felt like watching my own nan up on stage, and that really hit home. The only problem is I basically turn into Rudolph when I cry, and that isn’t the best when you’re in a public place; especially if you’re there with a bunch of other bloggers that you’ve never met before.
Not the first impression I wanted to make!
Luckily I wasn’t the only one crying. Every time a scene ended and they were changing the scenery around, you could hear people sniffing and when it ended you could see quite a few other people with damp faces.
As with all of my reviews, I’ll be keeping this as spoiler free as possible, so I won’t go into any real details of the story line; instead I’m going to include the press release overview I was sent:
Alice Howland is stubborn, clever and driven – a professional at the top of her game. But,
diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50, she is compelled to confront her
new reality and draw on her resilience to remain independent for as long as possible. Alice
strives to remain true to the woman she has always been, while relationships shift within her
family, in her work and most importantly with herself.
I will say that one of the things I really loved was how they showed what was going on in Alice’s head; there is a separate actor represent her thoughts, known as “Herself”. This is something that is really difficult to express on stage unless you use a narrator, which wouldn’t have really fit in this situation, and I think that it really added to the production.
Also as the play goes on, Herself and Alice change from always being close and sometimes even touching on stage, to being far away and distant from each other – a subtle visual technique that I thought worked really well!
Can’t you tell I used to do acting and that my boyfriend is an actor…
Unfortunately the production only ran for a few days, and you can’t actually see it now – but I’ve been told there is both a film and book version, which I would recommend reading/watching if you get the chance.
Preferably with a big box of tissues next to you!
Dementia is such an important topic, and one we need to talk about more. I’ve found that there is so much stigma and misunderstanding around the subject, and that needs to change.
Have you read or watched Still Alice? What did you think of it?
I was given a free ticket to go see Still Alice, but as always – all thoughts and opinions in this post are completely my own!
A twenty-four-year-old autistic writer and designer from Sheffield. Tattoo obsessed, animal lover, self confessed bookworm and eclectic witch.