Assistant Director Lucy Bradley reports from the rehearsal Room at Jerwood Space
Day four of rehearsals for The Lion’s Face and we seem to be making good progress. We’ve been sketching rough shapes to most scenes in the first part, getting our heads around the music and trying to work out the journeys of the characters through the world of our care home. Tomorrow we’re planning to try a very rough stagger through of the first half, enabling us to see how the episodes fit together. This will be really useful for the performers to cement how the story emerges and for us to see how it flows as one.
We were given a first edit today (again very rough) for some of the projections, currently a missing link in our storytelling. It felt really exciting to see the vibrant colours of Mr D’s childhood memories and to think about how they’ll sit against the stark neutral world of the care home.
We’ve all been trying to read as much as possible about dementia and Alzheimer’s and people who’ve experienced them first-hand. Yesterday we watched a short film Darkness in the Afternoon – which reminded us of the perspective of the patient. It feels easier somehow to feel for the family members but really quite difficult to see things from the experience of the person living with dementia. It felt good for us to re-focus on the world that Mr D might be inhabiting and how real that feels to him, how confusing and distressing at times. Being caught up in a world of fairground rides, birthday presents and schoolboy memories and how difficult it must be to align that with what he sees on a daily basis in the care home.
John recounted a story about one of his visits to observe a ‘Music for Life’ session last year (an organization based at Wigmore Hall in London that runs interactive music workshop for people with dementia). The group, made up of various individuals playing varied instruments had been making music together for some time and gradually all but two of the participants dropped out. The two remaining musicians continued to play a duet together across the space, enjoying and communicating with each other from afar through their playing. John later learnt that the two musicians were husband and wife, both suffering from dementia but able to re-connect with each other through music. We are looking to find those moments of re-connection between Mr and Mrs D, the patient and his wife in our story.
The Opera is potent and we all feel a weight of responsibility in ensuring that our story is honest to those people who’s lives are touched by Dementia. Members of the cast are off on visits next week to spend time with Care givers and Clinicians in this field and we hope that some of our scientific advisors will come in to watch the piece as it emerges, so we can continue to ensure its integrity.
Against the intensity and importance of telling this story, it feels right that the mood in rehearsals is lighter at times. The Care giver’s melodies are bringing a sense of dance to the space while the Daughter’s playful lyrics – ‘snowball fight, snowball fight, snowball fight!’(on the hottest day of the year so far!) and Mr D’s excitement at the fair ground – ‘She’ll have to hold my hand or I will scream’ are acting as our tonic.