Meet the theatre team staging a play about early-onset Alzheimer’s
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In Other Words, Matthew Seager’s debut play, will be staged at The Hope Theatre this month. Brought to life by two actors, the play explores the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. We spoke to Matthew and producer Stephanie Withers about how they brought this new, touching production to life. “I went to Leeds University and then I trained at drama school at the Royal Conservatoire Scotland,” Matthew explains. “One of our last modules was called Processes of Performance. We choose what we wanted to do and we ended up doing reminiscence, sensory and music based workshops at a dementia care home in Leeds. “We did ten sessions, one a week, and we would do singalongs, "It was amazing. The residents weren’t able to speak, remember names or have any cognitive response but if there was a song from their life that they recognised they’d be able to stand up and singalong – it was amazing. "We thought what a brilliant show that would make; what a great story.” Thus music is heavily featured throughout Arthur and Jane’s story. Keeping tight-lipped on name of the song choice Stephanie and Matthew told me the chosen song is by Frank Sinatra and it follows Jane and Arthur throughout their journey. “The part of the brain that connects to personal music is the past of the brain that’s last affected by dementia,” explains Matthew, “So his brain will still react to that song and he’ll be able to relate to his past and live again." After the module sparked an interest in Matthew, he wrote his first draft in his final year of study. The play has taken three years of development; what started as a 35-minute version at The Arches in Glasgow has now flourished into a full scale production at one of the most pominiant off West End theatres in London. What really grew the production was The Emerging Artists programme at the Lyric Hammersmith. producer Stephanie tells me: “It was so good we just got this lovely room and they basically let us do whatever we wanted with the support we needed. "Just to have the name of the Lyric behind you is such a great credit. Someone saying we support this work; we support this company - it just makes it so much more accessible to put on. Without that we wouldn’t have got The Hope along to see it." The heartfelt production follows Arthur and Jane over 50 years of their relationship as Arthur sadly develops Alzheimer’s. The Hope Theatre saw the production in January 2016 and decided to programme it. When talking about the characters Matthew explains that they are “not based on actual people, but they are based on things that happened to people. A lot is based on the scenarios of what I saw when I was working at the care home and documentaries.”
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