It’s Dark Outside (dir. Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs & Tim Watts) is a stunning piece of Theatre in every way, exploring Alzheimer’s and dementia in a deep and powerful manner. Having never seen a play about dementia, it completely altered my perspective on the issue and I cannot stop thinking about my experience watching the piece. Produced by The Last Great Hunt (Australia), it was crafted with great care and handled the sensitive topic in a beautiful and tender way.
At first, I struggled to identify with the protagonist – an old man with a strange and slightly crumpled mask. However, it became clear to me that the man’s agitation and irritability, though initially offputting, stemmed only from his condition. Representing him in this way, therefore, powerfully communicated to me how many of those dealing with dementia may first appear to, and be perceived by, others.
The narrative revolves around a faceless and shadowy villain chasing the old man, who seemed confused and fearful of the villain and their intentions. Whilst the old man lashed out when they finally came face to face with one another, I realised in this moment that the ‘villain’s’ only intention was to stop the old man from running away.
The Last Great Hunt’s staging of this scene enabled me to empathise with what it must be like to care for a dementia sufferer. The piece allowed me to reflect on how some sufferers act irrationally and aggressively, behaviours which are often brought about through confusion and fear. I was also keenly aware of protagonist’s solitude as he wandered through his dark universe – reflecting theloneliness and sense of isolation that often accompanies those with dementia.
After watching It’s Dark Outside, I did more online research about dementia so as to expand my own understanding of the condition. One sufferer, Barry, described the feeling as “my mind is lost in swirling clouds.”* Interestingly, The Last Great Hunt had used clouds as a recurring motif throughout the performance. The clouds often swirled around the old man: surrounding, distracting and misdirecting him. Combined with the stark lighting and sharply silhouetted animations, which made me feel like I was in a dream from the very beginning of the piece, I left the performance feeling I had a much better understanding of what it might be like to live with dementia.
Overall, It’s Dark Outside is an unusual, original, raw and stunning piece of Theatre that will stay with me for a long time – a truly insightful look into what can be a devastating condition.
*Taken from the Alzheimer’s Society (GB) website