Theatre practitioner Cindy Diver (left) and Dr Susie Lawless discuss their joint project. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Prominent Dunedin identities are among characters in a
dementia documentary play to be performed this year.
The project, whose working title is Still Life, is
being scripted with verbatim material from interviews
conducted jointly by Dunedin theatre practitioner Cindy
Diver, and Dunedin GP Dr Susie Lawless.
Participants were offered full anonymity. However, a few
chose to disclose their identity.
The project was conducted under stringent ethical standards,
central to which was remaining true to interviewees'
testimonies and not manipulating them to fit a storyline, Ms
Approved by the University of Otago's medical ethics
committee, the project was also supported by Alzheimers
''We don't go into our interview process with what we want to
get out of it. We go in and we let them speak, and from that
we try to find common threads between the stories, and common
themes,'' Ms Diver said.
Grief, compassion, coping with change, and loss of
independence emerged as key themes - but there was plenty of
''There's the idea of personhood; what makes you the person
you are, and at what point that ceases to be, or whether it
just becomes something else.''
Ms Diver said.
Dr Lawless was pleased by feedback from the daughter of a
participant, who said the process helped her mother to accept
the disease, giving her a sense of peace in the process.
''That was really lovely to hear, because we'd not done harm,
and perhaps it had been quite therapeutic for her,'' Dr
Interviewees included dementia carers, spouses, and people
with the disease. The play would use about a dozen individual
stories, most of them from Dunedin.
''It's definitely a Dunedin story. It has that flavour about
it,'' Dr Lawless said.
Subjects were drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds, and
some were well known.
''Some have said that they don't mind being identified, and
part of their identification is part of their story, because
they are prominent Dunedinites,'' Ms Diver said.
Dr Lawless was interviewed by Ms Diver a few years ago for
another verbatim theatre project, whose theme was domestic
Seeing it performed made her realise the power of theatre to
depict social issues, and Dr Lawless suggested the pair one
day work together on a project about dementia.
Ms Diver said she had not previously had personal contact
with dementia, and from the project learned about the stigma
and misunderstanding that existed around it.
''I would love for people to come along, and listen to these
stories, and walk away with a little bit more compassion ...
and a wee bit more knowledge.''
The play is directed by Stuart Young, and will be performed
at Fortune Theatre Studio over two weeks in June.
Most of the funding to produce the play has been secured,
with some funds still being sought through sponsorship
packages and donations.