Inside Out of Mind
Tanya Myers undertook a mighty commission from the Institute of Mental Health to create a play from the 600,000 words of research field notes from a study of people working on dementia wards. It is a bold, fine and courageous piece of work, a window on the world of dementia that lays bare the torment and confusion of the patients and the resilience of the care assistants, in their own words, ‘at the arse-end’ of a system never intended to provide long-term or end-of-life care.
We see it through the eyes of both, in an ever-changing dynamic. Normality can give way to cacophony in an instant. Alarms bleep, lights flash, rage yields to calm, confusion to fleeting moments of lucidity. Disturbed behaviour is beautifully observed and sustained by the cast, doubling as patients and staff, and there are moments of extraordinary tenderness and humour amid the anger of telling it how it is. You don’t have to like the patients, a nurse tells the frightened girl on a research placement, but you do have to care for them.
In a clever use of the research material, clinical notes can sound like profound truths when spoken directly to the audience, even used as a prayer by the devout ward nurse. Capillary-like forest branches projected on to Nettie Scriven’s authentic hospital set suggest broken threads, the fragmentation of the mind. It’s hard to watch, and with one million people predicted to have dementia by 2025, it’s very important that it is seen.
Dates: February 24-28, then touring until March 27