finding joy

Finding Joy

Belgrade Theatre


This is the final stop on a vast UK tour of small theatres but the quality of the experience presented by this show would make me follow Vamos Theatre everywhere.

This is a brilliant show about the joy to be found within caring for someone deep into dementia – there’s joy, humour, pathos, and more yet not a word is spoken.

It is mime with amazingly expressive masks on a troupe of four actors playing 16 characters. The masks define the characters brilliantly and the storytelling is exemplary. It is Joy’s (Bidi Iredale) 83rd birthday and her mask, as befits her befuddled mental state, shows a benign incomprehension. Her daughter ‘s (Louise Mellor) mask shows the weight of worrisome responsibility while her son Danny (Aron De Casmaker) shows constant surprise. Danny’s best friend Billy (Rayo Patel) acts as his support.

Joy is based on Audrey, a real-life friend of director Rachael Savage, who inspired the subject matter and the depth of the drama.

Joy is a ‘wanderer’ who is constantly in peril if not cared for properly. Joy’s grandson Danny becomes the ‘carer’ but, as for Audrey’s grandson Carl, he discovers not a burdensome experience but discovers a wonderful woman encased in a lost world of memories which he encourages with a childhood film he transfers to CD for her to see.

Joy is shown to thrive in Danny’s care. Her rich memories of childhood as an evacuee, meeting her husband Walter, early marriage and motherhood create stunning scenes within the drama. Danny and Joy enjoy each other’s company and he realises that she misses her little white dog so he buys her a puppet dog which she loves. Hankies and handbags play a big part in creating comfort and familiarity that Danny instinctively understands.

I have to say that it is incredibly moving, in fact I found nothing to recognise here from established theatre. It literally reached places that ordinary theatre rarely reaches. I laughed and cried by turns – and I wasn’t the only audience member brushing away a less than surreptitious tear. A standing ovation from a packed theatre also demonstrated the impact.

Vamos’ next show is A Brave Face touring February to May next year and I, for one, will be there. If you’re not, I want to know why.

Jane Howard


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