Arts and mental health

The Dementia Monologues

The Dementia Monologues are a collection of five films created by playwright Fiona Evans in collaboration with Live Theatre that explore personal experiences of dementia. The films aim to raise awareness and understanding of the condition, and were made possible thanks to donations.

The rise in dementia cases

Dementia refers to a set of symptoms including memory loss and difficulties thinking, problem-solving or language. It is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. The risk of developing dementia increases with age, and the condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65.

Currently dementia affects about 800,000 people in the UK, but due to the country’s ageing population, the number of cases continues to rise. The government has made addressing the disease a priority, as 1 million people are expected to be living with dementia in the UK in 10 years’ time.

Geordie Sinatra

In 2012, playwright Fiona Evan’s play Geordie Sinatra was performed at Newcastle’s Live Theatre. The play explores the tangled relationship between a father with dementia and his daughter.

‘It's a hugely topical and harrowingly difficult subject to broach on stage,’ said The Guardian’s Alfred Hickling in his review of the play. ‘Yet Evans succeeds in making us party to Geordie's hallucinations.’

As part of this production, Fiona ran a series of workshops in two Newcastle homes whose residents have dementia and Alzheimer’s. During this time she gathered stories and personal experiences from patients and carers, and used these as inspiration for the five short films she created. 

Sparking debate

The Dementia Monologues were made possible through donations and aim to address some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding dementia.

‘The monologues were developed as an educational tool to spark debate around dementia,’ says Fiona. ‘Each narrative is inspired by a real person, experience or story. So although the monologues highlight specific issues relating to dementia, I was keen to draw attention to the personal experiences of people affected by the disease, be they patients, carers, lovers, friends or family.’

These were directed by Live Theatre’s Artistic Director Max Roberts, and were screened at Live Theatre on 5 June 2014, followed by a discussion with some leading dementia care specialists in the North East and people working within the care industry.The films are available online for anyone to view or use as an educational tool to increase understanding of the condition. 

Telling stories

‘Following on from Fiona’s play Geordie Sinatra, we felt there should be a legacy, something that could reach a wider audience and be used as an educational tool,’ says David Blazey, Head of Social Inclusion & Recovery Projects and Head of Grants, Maudsley Charity.

‘Fiona’s films show, in a very sophisticated way, how you can tell stories that are very rich in what they contain but also in their potential to open up conversations and discussions. 

‘What makes the films special is that they aren’t telling you what you should or shouldn’t do, they are just telling you as it is. What has been produced has been far greater than we imagined and I think Fiona and everyone who worked on the films should be congratulated.’

To find out more, watch The Dementia Monologues or listen to the post-show discussion on  the Live Theatre website. If you’re interested in using the films as an educational resource please contact info@live.org.uk for further information.

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