Inside Out of Mind - Exploring Dementia Care through Drama

15 April 2013

Professor Justine Schneider is Professor of Mental Health and Social Care at the University of Nottingham, UK.  She writes here about an inspirational project which used research outputs to develop a play providing unique insights into dementia care.

Inside Out of Mind is an innovative theatre project which has brought together ethnographic researchers with arts practitioners to tackle the challenge of dementia care.  The resulting play brilliantly illustrates the multiple realities of life on a dementia ward, and is an inspiring collaboration between Meeting Ground Theatre Company, Lakeside Arts Centre, The University of Nottingham's Institute of Mental Health and the NHS.

Inside Out of Mind is based on field notes kept during months of participant observation in dementia wards by researchers Simon Bailey, Kezia Scales and Joanne Lloyd.  Writer and Director Tanya Myers used the highly detailed and extensive notes as a "seed" to inspire this play about the largely mysterious world of inpatient dementia care.

The resulting play is a powerful, yet non-naturalistic representation of life on a dementia ward from the perspective of the patients, the staff and visitors.  Touching on profound themes such as identity, loss, relationships, power and death, its aim is to impact positively on the care of people with dementia, to highlight the skills and compassion of basic-grade staff, and to use the medium of theatre with all its scope for illusion and magic to engage the audience’s emotions, fostering empathy for staff and patients, while giving pause for reflection and intuitive listening.

The Inside Out Managed Innovation Network members have now been working together for three years. The partnership includes Meeting Ground Theatre Company, with its long track record of socially-engaged drama, highly experienced arts consultants and administrators and academics with an interest in the arts and dementia.  With an entrepreneurial approach to the project and supported by the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Mental Health, the group have produced a magical play about the unseen world of dementia care.   A documentary about the development process may also be of interest to researchers and dementia educators.

The premiere run of Inside Out of Mind will take place at Lakeside public Arts Centre, University Park, Nottingham, from June 14-29, 2013.  Half of the places have been financed by three local health trusts, whose leaders see this as an innovative and engaging way to raise the skills and awareness of their basic-grade staff, health care assistants, who figure importantly in the play.   We would also like to encourage care home staff and home care workers as well as the general public to attend.  Anyone who wishes to see the play can now book online.

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