Researched, written and directed by Guy Le Jeune, produced by An Grianán Theatre, in association with the Ulster University School of Nursing and Dementia Northern Ireland (Dementia NI)
Featuring Valerie Bryce and Eoghan MacGiolla Bhrighde, with choreography by Aoife Toner.
The play, The Songbirds, is a new piece of socially-engaged, participatory art. The script was developed from interviews with dementia dyads (the person with dementia and their primary carer), as well as group workshop sessions with the advocacy group, Dementia NI. The piece is an honest but uplifting look at the experiences of people living with a dementia diagnosis, and the effect of that diagnosis on the individual and their families. The piece is 55 minutes long, features two actors and can be played in any community or theatre venue.
GERRY CHECKS THE BIRDCAGES, ONE BY ONE.
GERRY: (To audience as if they’re an imaginary friend) Memories. They’re like songbirds. Sweet and brash in the morning, full of life and love, and loud enough to wake even the sleepiest of souls. In the daylight, they soften, dimmed by the weight of the hours, and by evening, they’re quiet and sweet, fading into the twilight. The dawn chorus is forgotten and the light of the setting sun settles over the world, muffling the larks and the linnets. And once that star has slipped behind the hills, the birds are quiet, as if they’ve forgotten everything. But if you listen carefully, if you concentrate, you can still hear the echoes, swimming among the stars. Memories of songs, of mornings, memories of the wind and the rain, the sun and the clouds. They’re not lost, not misplaced, just displaced, if you were. They’re still there, somewhere. We just have to listen a little harder and sometimes fill in the gaps with the songs in our own hearts.
GERRY GOES BACK TO THE BIRD CAGES
GERRY: Are you wondering why they cages are empty? That’s not so easy to explain. I could tell you that each of them lived a full life, the linnets, the canaries, and the mules. Oh sorry. The mules, they’re a cross, a hybrid. They can’t reproduce, but they have the sweetest songs of all. I could tell you that each song was a year, a week, a day, sometimes even just a few moments. I could tell you that they’re away up there, flying free, singing their hearts out, but if I’m honest, I’m just not sure. I’m not sure if I remember them at all. That’s the thing about it. Somethings stick in your head, others are just beyond reach. You can’t quiet grasp the words or the thoughts. You know they are there, but they are just out of focus and out of time.
Feedback for The Songbirds
“Two brilliant actors presented the play Songbirds to the members of Dementia NI at Shaftsbury Square, and to be honest, I was totally overwhelmed. Every action mirrored the day to day life of having a family member with dementia. So much of our time is repetition and reminding my husband of things that happen in our lives and the actors portrayed this. It also showed that just take each day as it comes, still try to make memories and above all, laugh and have fun. The writer and everyone involved deserve recognition for the brilliant job they have done… as it really can help families. Take plenty of tissues as I am still crying with sadness and laughter, 3 days later.”
“I found the play so enjoyable and very emotional. It actually has made me not worry so much as the story was portrayed in such a lovely way. They might as well have just come into my house and acted out my life, except we don’t dance around the kitchen anymore.”
“It thought it really evocative and empathetic. Very informative and worthwhile. It is essential for all sections to public to see this play in order to understand more about dementia and learn from those personally affected.”
“It just summed my life all up. It was so realistic as it just played out what my life is like living with dementia. It was so real, funny and sad but that’s what life is like.”
“Just to give you some feedback and let you know I thought the play captured the whole essence of what life is like for people living with Dementia and the impact on their families. The actors were amazing and you were caught up in their characters which made the whole play much more emotional and as we witnessed the incident in the shopping centre it felt so traumatic for him and for us to watch his confusion, his fear and pain that he was going through. I would thoroughly recommend this for nursing, social work students and medical students. It would also be good for any multi-disciplinary teams working in health and social care.”
“Seen The Song Birds play last week one of funniest and sad I have ever seen as I am living with Dementia myself I could relate to everything the play was about, it was Fantastic. I would advise anyone to watch the play. What a Brilliant way of getting the Dementia message out to the people and carers I would like to Thank the actors and everyone involved with the play. Fantastic.”
“This play is not to be missed. I watched it last week it was just funny and sad helps carers to understand this horrible disease. I myself suffer with Dementia and the play was so like another day in life with Dementia it would be very good for families to watch together. Don’t miss this play after all ‘I Am Still Me’.”
“Excellent. I work with clients with dementia. This has made me rethink and hopefully improve the care I provide. Gives great insight into feelings of both the person with dementia and their family. Extremely moving. Showed a range of situations. There was nothing I didn’t like.”
“An absolutely brilliant performance – both emotional yet funny! A truly accurate representation of how the attitudes and behaviours of dementia can fluctuate. Beautiful analogies telling a beautiful story – showing the challenges associated as well as the beauty of the condition – tissues needed – well done to all!!”