One Hundred Trillion is a new writing project working in collaboration with those living with dementia. The title derives from the fact that there are 100 trillion synapses in the brain and signals that form memories and thoughts move through an individual nerve cell as a tiny electrical charge and the nerve cells connect to one another at synapses.
FOUR NEW PLAYS
In a similar way to how the brain functions, this project has provided these signals through theatrical workshops with those living in care and connect those living with dementia to the arts. The Dot collective has been working with 4 dementia peer groups in London to create 4 new plays written in collaboration with a professional writer.
Starting in Dementia Action Week 2018 we carried out a total of sixteen theatrical, storytelling and reminiscence workshops with four dementia groups in Southwark and Lambeth. Our participants collaborated with a playwright supported by a director and team of actors in a series of workshops to find prominent themes, characters and stories (fact or fiction). The workshops were designed to be a physical and creative space that could be flexible and giving to the needs of our participants. The groups discussed origins of names, remembered holidays, shared their occupations and recovered stories through sensory activities. Each group had four 1 hour workshops over a month and each workshop was tailored to the group, developing the structure to their interests and common themes each week. In the final workshop each group took part in a theatrical improvisation.
These improvisations went like this!
An engagement party where tables were laid out, flowers arranged and music picked. There was rum punch, speeches and talk of bread fruit. The happy couple, ex lovers, family members and bar tenders were the characters. We danced to 'Twist and Shout' and had a blast!
A graduation from the One Hundred Trillion workshops with a ceremony where Milly Small sang 'My boy Lollipop' as the graduating music!
A night out at the Old Gin bar of Old Kent Road for Jean's 90th Birthday. Elvis played and asked to take Jean home. She said no.
A bus ride from Elephant & Castle to Brighton where all 30 participants joined an hour long improvisation. Passengers got on and off including a Joy rider, a nurse, a layabout, a zookeeper, allotment owner, shopaholic and BBC News reader. Not to mention Claris driving the bus who changed gear with her stick going too fast round corners.
DEVELOPMENT OF PLAYS
The team of four writers were given a commissioning period in which to use the material they had gathered from the workshops and turn it into short plays. Each writer was given the freedom to take inspiration from and literally develop their contributions but most importantly capture the themes and characters at the heart of their group.
At the end of the initial commissioning period the writers delivered a draft ready to be shared with the groups. With a director and actors assigned to each play they were set for a rehearsed reading to be performed for the peer groups in their own environment, incorporating not just the writing but also any sensory elements used in the creation of their plays (costume, music, props etc). Following the rehearsed reading the groups were given an immediate opportunity to discuss/feedback on their plays with the writers, contribute more to the final draft of the plays. The writers were given their final commissioning period to incorporate the feedback from the participant groups.
RESPONSE POETRY WORKSHOPS
A week after presenting the staged reading to the groups we facilitated a further creative writing workshop for our participants where they focused on aspects of the play, discussed and wrote response pieces and poetry. We condensed their individual work into a group poem.
Listen to the poems below.
We staged all four plays at the Southwark Playhouse on 11th November, where all dementia groups were given complimentary tickets and provided with access to the theatre.
The final plays as well as the poems written will go into a book to be published and each participant will receive their own copy.
DEMENTIA GROUPS INVOLVED
THE CREATIVE TEAM
WORKSHOP FACILITATOR AND PRODUCER | LAURA HARLING
WORKSHOP FACILITATOR | PETER HOBDAY
WORKSHOP DIRECTOR | MAJA MILATOVIC-OVADIA
PLAYWRIGHT FOR THE PRIMROSE DEMENTIA CAFE | CHANTELLE DUSETTE
PLAYWRIGHT FOR LINK AGE SOUTHWARK | LUCY GRACE
PLAYWRIGHT FOR THE HEALTHY LIVING CLUB | LILY BEVAN
PLAYWRIGHT FOR THE PRIMROSE DEMENTIA CAFE | MARGARET PERRY