Mind Walking fuses text with aerial work to explore Alzheimer’s
New piece written by Tanika Gupta for BandBazi theatre tours UK
One of the cruel tricks that dementia plays on its sufferers is the misconception that they’re living in a bygone era. Coming face to face with this in a care home inspired choreographer Philippa Vafadari to tackle the subject with her Brighton-based company, BandBazi.
‘I met an elderly Iranian man who had lived in the UK for 30 years, but had developed Alzheimer’s and forgotten how to speak English,’ recalls Vafadari. ‘And it was really shocking, because I hadn’t thought of that as a dimension of the disease.’ Vafadari commissioned playwright and EastEnders writer Tanika Gupta to capture the emotional impact. The result is the poignant yet humorous tale of Indian immigrant Bobby, whose past comes back to haunt him and his family, after the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Fusing text and aerial work, Mind Walking uses an aerial hoop not just to add dynamism to the story, but as a visual metaphor for Bobby’s unravelling mind. ‘The hoop is like a door that Bobby walks through when he has his Alzheimer’s episodes,’ explains Vafadari. ‘It’s also counterweighted, and as aerial artist Jonothan Campbell climbs stealthily up the ladder, the hoop comes down. It’s almost like the hoop is his memory, and Jonothan is the person controlling it.’
Vafadari coaxed Glasgow-based actor Peter D’Souza out of retirement to take on the role of Bobby. ‘His performance is absolutely mesmerising,’ she says. ‘Just talking about it gives me a lump in my throat.’
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Sat 13 Apr; Lochgelly Theatre, Sun 14 Apr