Home | Blogs | Inside Out of Mind

Inside Out of Mind

idea.nottingham.ac.uk image: Dementia Day to Day blogs banner

dementia awareness

In the summer of 2013 Nottingham University’s Lakeside Theatre staged a new play, Inside Out of Mind*, written and directed by Tanya Myers.

There are at least 3 stories to tell here. One is the story in the play itself but there’s also the story of how the play came about and another story about how the play was put on. Then are there are the individual stories of people who came to see it and how it affected them, and finally there is a story not yet told about what happens next and how the play can be taken elsewhere for new people to see it.

‘The play’s the thing...’ It’s about dementia. Specifically, it is about a group of people with dementia on a hospital ward, the Ward With No Name, and the staff, mainly healthcare assistants, who look after them. In keeping with the confused world of people with dementia, the action is semi-realistic and there is often an other-worldly quality to the music and the staging. The actors switch between staff and patient roles, which I think reminds us of how we may all pass through this scene ourselves in the future. The only character who does not is a former scientist called Gabriel Proust. He speaks at the beginning but thereafter is mute. He shambles around collecting keys, biscuits, pillows, pairs of scissors and the like. Eventually he absconds but only to return with a bunch of roses for the sweet young girl who is working on the ward as a researcher as well as a nursing aide. And that’s about it as far as plot goes. But the play is more about states of mind and the reactions of the staff to those they care for. These are authentic – not all good, often quite stressed, and with different ways of coping, of which a spiritual approach seems as effective as any.

What’s unique though is how the play came about. It arose from research on a dementia ward in Nottingham. The research, led by Professor Justine Schneider, was looking at the work of healthcare assistants in this setting and how they deal with the challenges of caring for people with severe dementia and unpredictable behaviour. Some of our experts will be able to comment further on this work. However, an important aspect was a series of interviews and observations with staff, relatives and patients about life on the ward. This material was transcribed and it is from this huge pile of paper that Tanya assembled the script for the play. In other words, nothing in the play wasn’t said by somebody in real life.

The third story is that the researchers (my colleague Prof Justine Schneider led this) arranged for the local health employers to send all of their health care support workers to daytime performances of the play followed by workshops to discuss what they had just seen. This was an enterprise of military proportions, about 200 staff each day, with a marquee and enough chicken Caesar salad to feed a Roman legion. Many of the staff attending weren’t sure what they had let themselves in for but in general the responses were very positive. It was clear that most of them had had no training in relating to people with dementia and many were extremely moved emotionally too.

It’s not just what you know about dementia, it’s also where your heart is that matters. Drama gets behind the facts and provides other ways of looking at this human predicament that we call dementia. 

*For more information about Inside Out of Mind, including clips from the production, please visit the following webpage:http://institutemh.org.uk/x-research-/managed-innovation-networks/inside-out




Your comments

You'd be very welcome to leave a comment on this blog post.  You do need to be logged in to leave a comment, if you don't already have a username and password you can register here.

Your comment won't appear straight away as we'll need to check it first: thank you for your patience.

When leaving comments please bear in mind our posting rules.

See more like this

Karen Harrison Dening

There is much debate on when is the best time to offer advance care planning to people with dementia. I would say as soon as possible after the diagnosis of dementia is made.  Many professionals feel that getting people with dementia to start thinking about their end of life care wishes is both t

Fiona Marshall

Two things have recently made me think about the ways in which we as academics think about living with dementia; recent reading of wellbeing meanings in general and receiving a couple of battery hens.

Karen Gray

On the train home from Nottingham to Bristol last week I finished The Iceberg: A Memoir by the artist Marion Coutts.  This extraordinary and devastating book describes the dying from a brain tumour of Coutts’