One Hundred Trillion, named after the number of synapses in the brain, is the latest production by The Dot Collective, now three years old. They do something which is, in my opinion, amazing: they bring professional theatre to those living with dementia and in care. But this week South London is lucky enough to have them fixed in place at the Old Vic Workrooms with an immersive evening. They promise a series of short promenade performances, all inspired by workshops started for Dementia Action Week 2018.
Starting in the bar with some delightful music (thank you Thomas Judd and Jo Wickham!) we were led through the transformed Old Vic Workrooms and a series of short performances, by an extravagant guide played by Stuart Turner. He also led the evening with an introduction to the bookcase analogy – a visual analogy of how perception of reality can change for people with dementia. From there I thought I would be in for something bittersweet, thought-provoking and ultimately saddening. The best thing about this evening is that I was wrong.
After being shown into a Memory Room we were shown a video explaining the evening, its conception and the work of the Dot Collective. The room was also covered in writings that I think were something to do with the writing of the pieces, but they missed a trick in not letting us have longer in there – we were encouraged to look around but it didn’t last long as the evening was in mid-flow. The performance immediately following this I also missed because it started while some of the audience was still in the previous room, and being towards the back of the group I missed what was going on. Sorry all, but that’s one of five performances I can’t comment on. Maybe it’s a danger of immersive theatre that I need to accept, but also a shame. What I did see, however, was great. Instead of performances focusing on the devastating impact of dementia I saw snapshots of vivid and invigorating life. None more so than the final performance, London Bus. A collection of fantastical, ridiculous and vibrant characters rode a magical bus through South London. They joked, they sang and they were happy. Inspired by an improvisation, this was a stark reminder that people with dementia are not defined by their condition. It was full of the joy of life, it was playful, it was silly and I would have given anything to be on that bus with them.
Authors: Chantelle Dusette & The Daffodil Café, Nunhead (Frames); Margaret Perry & the Primrose Café (I Could Have Danced All Night); Lucy Grace & Link Age Southwark, Dulwich (Topsoil); Lily Bevan & the Healthy Living Club, Stockwell (London Bus)
Directed and produced by: Laura Harling
Booking Link: thedotcollective.com
Booking Until: 11th May 2019