Wednesday, 16 July 2014

We look back on our scratch - or, work-in-progress - performance at Derby Theatre Studio last year, when we explored King Lear in the context of dementia.

It's taken a while for us to process the huge amount of research and development that we did last year into King Lear and dementia. In fact, it's taken us about six months to let things settle and the project to take more shape (while we've been doing lots of other exciting things in our performance, learning, participation and training programmes).

Lear (Gerry Flanaghan) and his carer (Grace Waugh Scott) in the Lear/dementia scratch performance © 1623DIAGNOSING KING LEAR 

We diagnosed King Lear with dementia experts and found that he has four different forms of dementia at different points in the play. This strand of the project gave us the opportunity to research the illness and its impact, as well as to engage medical experts with Shakespeare. You can find out more about this area of the project by clicking here.


We invited our social media followers to respond to King Lear's quotation "Let me not be mad" with photographs, videos and audio clips before a digital artist created a series of three collages from the submissions. Discover more about Let Me Not Be Mad by clicking here.


We ran creative workshops in care homes for people living with dementia, their professional carers and families. This involved sharing stories in response to a set of tactile embroidered artworks based on Shakespeare's play that we commissioned. Click here for more on our visits to the homes and our work there.


As we come to the final stage of putting together our funding bids to turn last year's work into a regional touring theatre production, we'd like to share with you our thoughts so far and our memories of the scratch performance that we developed in December.

Former 1623 trainee Grace Waugh Scott worked with actor Gerry Flanaghan in a week of workshops to explore the theatrical possibilities of the findings of the research that we’d conducted in the previous five months. For an overview of the research, please click here.

Grace and Gerry were joined by playwright Jane Upton, postgraduate researcher Emma Fitzpatrick, producer Chris Lydon and director Ben Spiller to create the scratch performance. Student Steven O’Key kept a blog throughout the week on our website. You can read his blog by clicking here.


The scratch performance took the form of four short fragments, or scenarios, that brought together the devised work of the team as well as Jane's scripted work. It was a tricky balance between devising and writing but we finally had something to share with the audience on the Friday of development week.

Grace Waugh-Scott as Lear's Fool in the Lear/dementia scratch performance © 1623In our post-show discussion the audience shared feedback, which included:

  • "Wonderfully emotive and inspirational"

"Well-observed, well-informed and true to life"

"Incredibly moving"

"Sensitively done"

"Great audience involvement"

"Excited to find out how it will grow into a full play"

Taking into account feedback from the scratch audience, the artists involved, the project participants and Derby Theatre, we are planning to produce a new double-bill called Lear/Cordelia, inspired by the Lear/dementia project that we want to tour regionally.


Derby Theatre is working with us as our key partner on Lear/Cordelia, which will be a double-bill: a new adaptation of Shakespeare's play set in a care home followed by a new play that explores the impact of dementia on family life today.

The new play will be written from the perspective of Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia, who is silent for most of Shakespeare's play. We want to give this marginalised female character a strong voice to tell her untold story while taking into account our findings from the Lear/dementia project.


Our artistic director Ben Spiller will adapt and direct Lear, while Birmingham REP Foundry playwright Farrah Chaudhry will write Cordelia, to be directed by Louie Ingham, associate director at The Dukes in Lancaster.

Digital artist Darius Powell, who worked with us on Let Me Not Be Mad, will design artwork - inspired by Let Me Not Be Mad - that will be projected onto the set, designed by Eleanor Field - who will also design costumes - to explore dementia visually.


Derby Theatre is commissioning Lear/Cordelia and has awarded us funding and support-in-kind to create the production. We will also apply to Arts Council England and Derby City Council for funding to make the production possible.

The Lear/dementia project was supported by Arts Council EnglandDerbyshire County CouncilQUADDerby Theatre and the University of Derby. 

Arts CouncilDerbyshire County Council Logo - High Quality Mono Transparent PNGQUAD Derby Theatre    Derby University


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