Friday, April 8, 2011

Why make a play about Alzheimers disease?

So much has been written on the subject of Alzheimers. So many people have experienced- directly or indirectly - its effects. It was, and is, important to us that our play become not just a rehashing of existing theories, or a family drama about a fictional sufferer, but a poetic exploration of how what we think of as reality can be distorted.

We have set out to try to tell a story in an unsentimental way, in a way that doesn't impose our own standards on the protagonist, but allows us to see the world through his altered reality. We are working with a neuroscientist to help us gain an understanding of aspects of the disease that is unemotional, detached.

In this way we liken it to our own starting point: science fiction. Where the rules of what can and can't happen are bent; where you can see an older version of yourself in the mirror; where time can move backwards as well as forwards; or where everyday objects can take on strange and sinister significance.

By doing all this, we hope to present something that provides a poetic, nuanced, and objective view of some of the aspects of dementia.

Objective 3: Write a play about Alzheimers Disease

And from the idea of Time, we began to look at telling the stories of people who are, in different ways 'outside' of time. Whether our perceptions of time - based a lot on history and memory - are altered for some people, as in the case of someone who has lost their memory, and what consequences this had for the 'important' memories they might have of global, historical events?

Objective 2: Write a play about Time

Last summer, we were given the fantastic opportunity by the Tobacco Factory and Theatre Bristol to spend four weeks workshopping our new play. We started out with the image described in the last post':

Two astronauts stranded on a planet of rice.

We suspected that these astronauts, who are no doubt from somewhere in the distant future, would explore the planet, and dig up whatever they found. But what would they find? What would two intergalactic archeologists find and, more importantly, what would they be able to do with anything they dug up? In other words, what does the past leave for the future?

Both of us are in our mid twenties, and have recently lost grandparents. Like anyone who goes through this, we wondered what they left behind? What stories had been lost, what memories and anecdotes and knowledge of the last century was disappearing over the horizon? And would they leave any behind? (In fact, in the case of Thomas' grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimers disease, many of those memories had been lost long before he died.)

We become concerned with memory and time, and began to imagine whether it would be possible for these future explorers to know anything of our grandparents. Or would the second world war, like so many wars before it, become fossilized from memory, into history, then into myth?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Objective 1: Write a play

It is easy to forget, in the midst of self justification and funding applications, that the ultimate aim of this project is to write a play. In our theatre we (Valentina and Thomas, the core artists of Dancing Brick) aspire to a writing that is pared down, and led as much by the image as by text. In the construction of the work we try to juxtapose images and ideas and allow the audience the space to draw links between them. Usually, and this play is the same, we start our writing with a single image, and spend the rest of the process unpicking, unraveling and exploring that image.

For 'Captain Ko' we started with the image of two astronauts stranded on a planet of rice.

We want the play to be funny / beautiful / spacious / accessible / poignant / inspiring.

In unpicking the image we have since been led to explore / been inspired by:
60s Science Fiction B-Movies
Alzheimer's Disease
The Soviet Union
The moon landing
Sergei Krikalev
Kerry Tribe


Hello, and thank you for coming to have a read of this blog.

If you don't know us already, we are Dancing Brick, a company based in the South East of England that makes visual theatre. We have been going for nearly three years and, at the moment, we are in the process of making our third full-length play. It is the making of this play that we intend to document on this blog.

We hope you will find it interesting both as a resource of research into Alzheimers disease and as an insight into our creative process. Please let us know if you have any thoughts about the blog, the work, or anything else.