With his debut theatre show How to Keep Time exploring dementia through drumming and poetry, Antosh Wojcik tells Giverny Masso how the piece helps him to connect to the memory of his grandfather…
What inspired How to Keep Time?
It’s an autobiographical account of being with my grandad in his last days of vascular dementia. It’s driven by the idea that dementia completely cut off his communication skills and, with that loss of fluency, how I am able connect to him with something I’m really fluent in: drumming. It’s almost a way of rising up to such a difficult condition as dementia and trying to meet it with a power that I have.
How did the medium of drumming help you explore dementia?
It’s heavily physical so it matches the way my grandad was affected. Vascular dementia is a far more physical rearranging of how the brain works, so the drums felt apt for communicating that. They have a real improvisational quality: I know what sections I’m drumming in and how I drum, but as I go through particular phases of exploring dementia what happens is quite in the moment. So it sort of maps and mirrors how that condition works inside the brain.
Is it difficult to perform the piece on an emotional level?
I’m helped by the fact the drumming is really fun and the piece has a real sense of hope to it – it’s a hopeful attempt at communicating rather than confirming that he has been lost to dementia. The show is a last moment of connection in which I hope to empower the memory of him rather than make it feel like a loss. As strange as it seems, there’s a lot of joy in it.
How did you get into performance?
I’ve been drumming for 15 years – it was my first performative language. At university I wrote scripts and started performing poems. It was then that I had the idea of connecting drumming and poetry – and through that I felt able to talk about what was going on with my grandad. I came to the performance circuit through the Roundhouse [in Camden], where I used to be a resident artist, which gave me space to develop work. I was the joint winner of the Roundhouse Poetry Slam in 2013 with a very personal monologue piece that really showed me I can write the way I want. I’ve also performed at festivals such as Glastonbury.
Are you planning to make more theatre pieces?
I’m hoping to create more work that I’m not performing. I want to see what it’s like to go into that collaborative process, releasing the words to other people and seeing how they grapple with them. At the moment, I’m focused on different ways of presenting it. I’m looking at the idea of animating it and transferring it to the screen.
Training: BA in creative writing, University of Winchester (2010-13); Roundhouse Poetry Collective (2013-14)
First professional role: Support slot for Buddy Wakefield with Apples and Snakes in Winchester (2014)
How to Keep Time is touring until October 19