It was a privilege to support Rob Gee’s performance of ‘Forget Me Not: The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit’ at The Art House in Southampton on Sunday evening. With a sold-out audience, the atmosphere was excited and expectant. The Art House’s gallery was the perfect space for this poignant and entertaining performance.
Without wanting to give too much away, Rob opened the play with a heartfelt letter from the perspective of Elsie, a retired dementia nurse with her own diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, detailing how she wanted to be cared for as her condition progressed. Filled with humour and emotion, some lines in particular jumped out at me: ‘don’t treat me like an embarrassment, even when I’m embarrassing’ and ‘I know the fact I’ll lose my memory won’t stop me feeling things emotionally.’ These two statements poignantly sum up how dementia can affect a person. They still feel emotion and deserve respect and kindness. We should always see the person first.
Throughout the play another 14 characters appeared, each expertly played by Rob and each easily distinguishable. From Dean the nurse who means well to Janet the horrible ward manager, the audience was swept up in the story of Elsie’s death and the events that ensued, piecing together the puzzle of what happened and why. The play had some heart-breaking moments, especially towards the end when the killer was revealed. Jim, a retired police detective solving the murder of his wife’s death and subsequent events, sums up impressions of dementia in the 1990s when he says to the killer ‘you’d have got away with it if you’d left it there, but then you killed someone who didn’t have Alzheimer’s and that’s when people cared’.
Thankfully views on dementia have changed – there is now more awareness of the condition and how it affects people and it was great to find out that this play has been adopted by the NHS as part of a dementia training package for staff in order to ensure wards for people living with dementia don’t operate in this way. In Southampton we are working to make the city a more dementia friendly place to live, supporting people with the condition to stay living in their own homes and feel part of their community. There are currently around 2,500 people living with dementia in Southampton, many of which are still living in their own homes. Therefore it is vital to us that we support them in any way possible to continue to live well with their condition.
If you would like to find out more about the project follow us on Facebook and Instagram(@DementiaFriendlySouthampton) and Twitter, search for ‘Southampton Dementia Action Alliance’ or get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Alexandra Baker