Finding Joy at Belgrade Theatre

Starting off in Hereford, Vamos Theatre’s Finding Joy is finally making its way to Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre to finish its 3-month UK tour. An award winning, wordless production, based on a true story, it’s been praised as “excellent” and “a triumph”!

I caught up with actor Aron De Casmaker, who plays Danny, to find out just what makes the show such a must-see.

Finding Joy is about an 83-year-old woman named Joy, who lives on her own but is starting to show signs of dementia. Her daughter does her best to look after her, while also working, and looking after her own son.

Joy’s grandson is “what some would consider a ‘waste case’ in the sense that he doesn’t focus so much on his school. He’s only like 17 or so. He’s more interested in his mates and drinking beer and that kind of thing.” Aron explains

“He has a natural sense of energy and also a love for his grandmother and that mixed with a fair bit of free time ends up dawning this wonderful relationship with his grandmother and he ends up caring for her.”

“They both really understand each other and have a level of understanding that most don’t have the opportunity to have when dealing with someone with dementia.

“That’s all I’m gonna say because from there, the adventure begins…”

Aron has been working with Vamos “pretty much exclusively” for all of 2017. He was involved in their last tour The Best Thing and was invited to join the Finding Joy project very early on in the former tour.

“I’m really drawn to masked theatre, the aesthetics of the theatre are fantastic, really exciting, really challenging, and they tell a story for an audience in a way that most have never seen before, so that’s a really great opportunity for me as well.”

The production is completely wordless however, that doesn’t make it any less engaging.

“It definitely enhances the narrative. A lot of people come in to the show and their first response afterwards is ‘I didn’t know what to expect’, which usually translates to ‘I didn’t think I was going to like it, I didn’t think I was going to understand it’. But it’s our job as actors to, not only understand how to communicate without words, but also to communicate just enough so that the narrative resonates extremely loud inside the heads of the audience, and that’s what we do.

“We don’t stumble over things like words and meanings behind the words.

“The use of non-verbal communication, we actually learned being part of this project, makes up about 55% of our interpersonal communication, so that majority is what we focus on here and inherently everybody understands that. If you and I were in the same room right now having a conversation, and somebody was spying on us through binoculars, say a mile away, they might not be able to understand the exact context of what we’re saying, but they would understand everything from our level of enthusiasm, engagement, level of trust, truth, status. Everything about that would be expressed through our non-verbal communication.

“So, that’s what we bring to the stage.”

As well as being wordless, the actors all wear masks on stage throughout the performance. Aron assures me that it doesn’t affect the way emotions are conveyed.

“The truthful language of all humans comes from the body. The face what it does is mostly is it lies. It smiles when it doesn’t need to, it looks stone-faced bored when it might be completely uncomfortable in a situation. We put a lot of emphasis on that face. But if you cover up the face and you look at the rest of the body, everything is revealed completely, so that’s what we’re showing.”

The target audience for Finding Joy is “strategically” people who care for those with dementia.

“They’ve been coming to us after having seen the show and said your show is trainingand originally we’ve said no, it’s not. It’s just a piece of theatre and more and more they say ‘yes, this is training!’ because it shows people how best to deal with those living with dementia.”

However, don’t let that stop you from going to see it. The show might be aimed at carers, but it doesn’t lessen the impact for non-carers.

“Beyond that, we’re targeting anyone and everyone, because this is an issue that touches us all. When I say living with dementia, I’m not only speaking of those who have dementia, but those living around them, which is really all of us because at some point in our lives we’re all gonna be touched by it.”

And it’s not all doom and gloom, either!

“In terms of the comedy, the humorous aspect, when we were making the show, we really wanted to underline the fact that dementia is still a part of life, and no matter what is happening in your life, there’s still elements of joy as much as there is sorrow so we wanted to accent that element of joy just as much because   so much research that goes into dementia always focuses on the negative aspects, which we’re not trying to say don’t exist, we’re trying to say that it’s a part of life and part of that grand scheme of things.”

In regard to the reception the show’s received so far?

“Hands down it’s been absolutely astounding. After our show we go into the audience and we speak to everyone because we want as much fresh feedback as we can, and we’ll get a lot of tears, we’ll get a lot of people just collapsing into our arms, wanting to tell us their story because they feel we’ve reflected them somehow and we feel the same because it reflects a lot of elements of our own lives just as much. So, it’s been a really outstanding reception so far, for sure.”

“Masked theatre full stop is unique. So many people say ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’, and so many people will also say ‘I swear I saw that mask move and I swear I heard what was going on, I heard the dialogue that was being spoken

“So you might end up feeling crazy halfway through the show because you’re gonna swear you’re gonna be seeing all these things happen.

“But we’re targeting the heart so the heart makes us crazy”

Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing this absolutely awe-inspiring and touching play. Aron and the rest of the production team will be bringing Finding Joy to Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre from 16th – 18th November 2017

Tickets: £12 & £14.50 Concessions: £9 to £12.50

Showtimes:

Thurs 16th Nov: 8pm

Fri 17th Nov: 8pm – Post-Show Discussion

Sat 18th Nov: 1.30pm – Dementia Friendly

Sat 18th Nov: 8pm

For more information, visit: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/finding-joy

 

Divya Soni

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