24 August 2012

Perish the Thought offers a unique glimpse into the lives of people with dementia and those who look after them. Image: Artwork by Terry Townsend The challenges of dementia will be brought to life on stage during Dementia Awareness Week 2012 in a new play aiming to highlight the role of people who care for those with dementia.

Directed by UniSA lecturer Dr Russell Fewster and written by author and puppeteer Susan Harris, Perish the Thought, which premieres on World Alzheimer’s Day, uses puppetry, live music and theatrical performance to offer audiences a unique glimpse into the lives of people with dementia and those who look after them. 

Adapted from Harris’s book A Special Place: caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s – the journey, the play follows the lives of a father and daughter who are struggling to cope with his progressive dementia. Harris says the play sheds light on the impact dementia has on the carers.   

Perish the Thought aims to be a voice for those living with dementia and the hidden victim - their carers,” Harris says.

“Based on actual events, the play is a journey through my family’s life, which includes moments of poignancy and gentle humour. The world of dementia can sometimes be as confusing for the carer as it is for the person in care.”

“Dementia can distort reality and sense of self and that’s why we decided to use different types of media, including puppetry, in order to manipulate objects, illustrate thoughts and replicate childhood.  Live music also plays an integral part in the production.” 

Dr Fewster, Program Director of Media Arts at UniSA, says Perish the Thought uses theatre as a vehicle to explore a key social and health issue in Australian society. He hopes the play will provoke debate, raise questions and increase awareness of dementia.

“Theatre can be a very useful tool to look at important issues that often go under the radar in the wider community,” Dr Fewster says. 

“The play is very moving and raises important questions about how we deal with such a prevalent illness within society. The play imaginatively expresses the relationship between father and daughter, patient and carer and also stages the signs of dementia.”

The play stars local actor Roger Newcombe and features an original score from UniSA sessional lecturer Richard Chew, who has performed widely both in Australia and overseas. A number of other UniSA staff, students and alumni are involved in the production.

In addition to public performances, the play will offer a viewing for high school student groups and a special matinee session for carers.

Perish the Thought will run from September 19 – 29 at Holden Street Theatre. Tickets are available on www.venuetix.com.au

Interview Contacts

Russell Fewster mobile 0466 314 613 email russell.fewster@unisa.edu.au  

Susan Harris mobile 0429 405 095 email sph@arcom.com.au

Media Contact

Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au

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