A chance to visit the theatre and experience a show – It’s not always easy when you have a diagnosis of dementia...
‘WOW’ – West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds pulled out all the stops so that three people that we support could enjoy "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang". They thought of everything:
- Singing sessions before the main show
- Extra theatre staff who were all ‘Dementia Friends’
- Large signs everywhere – Directing people to seats, toilets, etc
- Appropriate lighting – It never went completely dark
- Flexible seating
- Two areas for people who need to move about
- A quiet room so people could get away from crowded spaces
- No sudden noises as this can startle
- Pre-booked ice-creams for the interval which was longer than the usual interval
- Plenty of time to orientate/get to seats
I knew how important it was for Richard to feel secure. I supported him to his seat: eye contact is crucial so I positioned myself so I could see his face and hold his hands encouraging him to come down the steps saying "One step, Richard… One step, Richard…", communicating at his pace. I am aware that Richard needs time to process information.
As the performance started I encouraged Richard to look at the stage. I pointed out the characters and observed his reactions. It was interesting to see that when a silhouette of the child catcher along with his ‘cackling’ was shown on stage Richard responded by saying "Ooooohh!" This indicated to me that Richard was aware of the ‘scary’ part of the show.
Sometimes Richard needed a cue – I clapped, Richard clapped, sometimes clapping without a prompt. When Richard heard ‘Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang’ he started to sing becoming animated so I mirrored his reaction and we sang together.
At the end of the performance it seemed like everything clicked for Richard. He realised this was a show and said ‘That’s it, that’s it!’ Clapping and laughing I got a hug and he said ‘Thank you’.
SO MEMORABLE – Tears in my eyes – Thank you, Richard – what a pleasure.
To the West Yorkshire Playhouse – You got it exactly right.
Learning Support Worker, Chesterfield