Syd Festival embraces Alzheimer’s

A new play will encourage audiences to journey into the imagination of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. And, it’s set to feature in the upcoming 2013 Sydney Festival lineup this January.

A scene from the new play, It’s Dark Outside

By Yasmin Noone

Art is set to imitate life in early 2013, when three Perth-based actors take artistic licence to imagine and creatively portray what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s disease, in a new theatrical production performed as part of the upcoming Sydney Festival season.

Originally commissioned for the Perth Theatre Company, It’s Dark Outside delves into the mind of an older man with Alzheimer’s and follows him on a bewildering journey as he wanders into the wild, with a tent in-hand, after the sun sets.

The one-hour piece flows as the main character gets swept up in a surreal world and the audience is made to question whether they are on a journey inside the older man’s mind or lost in the ‘reality’ of his confused existence.

According to the play’s Perth-based creators, Weeping Spoon Productions, the production does not pretend to have the answers. Instead, it aims to draw the audience into a quest that makes no judgments but only affirms the power of the mind and imagination.

“I don’t think at any moment we are pretending to know what’s on going on for someone with Alzheimer’s disease,” said one of the actor’s and co-creators, Chris Isaacs.

“We are using an artistic license to present a story of a [fictional] person, using very artistic means, symbols and ideas.

“It’s about perception, how people view the world, how they relive the moments in their life and how their world all of a sudden shifts them to somewhere else.”

Mr Isaacs will join fellow actors, Arielle Gray; Chris Isaacs; and Tim Watts on stage to create “visual magic”, which will be augmented by a haunting score by musician, Rachael Dease.

Mr Isaacs said the team of three actors, all of whom are aged under 28 years old, researched the condition and recent medical developments, and drew on their own personal experiences of the disease in order to create the entire play themselves. 

“The team’s main experience was through Tim, whose grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s.

“That was influential but it wasn’t as if we were telling his grandfather’s story but it did influence and inspire different aspects of the play.

“…My neighbour suffered dementia and I’ve just worked – at different times – with elderly people and had those conversations with them where you are talking about one thing and then the conversation just becomes something completely different.”

Presented by Weeping Spoons Productions, the theatrical performance aims to use imagery, puppetry, mask, animation, an original score and live acting to encourage audiences to consider what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s disease.

The younger actors use a mask on stage to believably play an older man and related characters.

Other performance tools and props were chosen to carry the play’s message and storyline because they are “just things we enjoy using on stage”.

“Puppets also lighten an idea of a subject that is already quite sad and dark in a lot of ways.

“It’s important that we find the lightness in it despite the horrible nature of the disease. And to us, there is a lightness because our job is to entertain as well as inform.

“The truth of it is that there are moments of beauty and moments of sadness, as with most issues and ideas in the world.”

It’s Dark Outside will run from January 11 to 17, with tickets available now via Ticketmaster and Sydney Festival.  

“Coming to see the play is about coming on a journey with us – an old man’s journey into the wild, in its most basic and simplest form.

“There’s a heart to it which a lot of people connect with: a real beautiful sentiment.

“A lot of people who have been involved with Alzheimer’s will connect with the play.

“We hear a lot of positive feedback from people [who have known someone with the disease,] which is nice to hear, especially when dealing with such a sensitive subject.

“That’s all really a warming thing to hear as an artist because honouring someone is what we set out to do.

“But I wouldn’t suggest the play is only for people who have been in contact with Alzheimer’s disease – it reaches out to everyone.”

The details

It’s Dark Outside forms part of the Sydney Festival’s popular ‘About an Hour’ series, happening at Sydney’s Carriageworks (Eveleigh), which involves 45 performances of nine diverse works spanning theatre, storytelling, movement and music.

Where:      Carriageworks Bay 20 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. The main entrance near Codrington Street. Parking is very limited – Carriageworks is within walking distance from Redfern and Macdonaldtown train stations.

When:        January 11 at 5.30pm

                    January 12, 13 at 3.30pm & 6pm

                    January 14, 17 at 7pm & 9.30pm

                    January 15 at 7pm

Duration:   60mins
Tickets:     $35
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 723 038; Sydney Festival 1300 668 812

More or related information:

Behind the scenes of It’s Dark Outside:

Review:  “An intensely evocative masterpiece”

Tags: alzheimer, chris-isaacs, dementia, events, its-dark-outside, perth-theatre-company, sydney, sydney-festival, ticketmaster, weeping-spoon-productions,

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