Memory Plays

How a theatre ensemble helps people with dementia

10 October 2019
The theatre ensemble Demenzionen's plays are designed to trigger memories among the audience.
Courtesy Demenzionen
The theatre ensemble Demenzionen's plays are designed to trigger memories among the audience.
Courtesy Demenzionen

On a warm July afternoon, in a large, airy room, three elderly actors chatted away behind a white curtain, as they waited for their audience to be seated. Next to them lay an open brown leather suitcase with metallic edges, a radio set that dated back to before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and an old songbook. The walls were splashed with photos from Italy.

It took a while for the spectators to arrive from the upper levels, as the elevator could fit in only three wheelchairs at a time. Those who could walk independently settled down on neatly aligned brown, cushioned chairs. Those in wheelchairs were positioned so that they left enough space for the actors to walk through and reach every viewer.

The venue of the performance was the Diacor retirement home in Bad Honnef, a spa town in western Germany. The show was a humorous musical called Journey to the South Side, performed by the theatre ensemble Demenzionen, about a family’s holiday from West Germany to Italy in the 1950s. The multisensory performance was interactive and took its viewers back into their past, a place where they felt most comfortable.

Priti Salian is a Bangalore-based journalist who covers human rights, social justice, development and culture for The Guardian, the BBC, National Geographic, NPR, Al Jazeera and many other publications.

Keywords: mental health Germany theatre
COMMENT