10/29/2019 0 Comments
Maggie May, a new play by Frances Poet, is to be staged in Spring 2020 in a co-production by Leeds Playhouse and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. This inspiring, incisive and uplifting play signifies a strong commitment by each of the venues to creating new, positive work about people living with dementia.
Directed by Jemima Levick, Maggie May is an extraordinary play about an ordinary Leeds family learning to cope with a life-changing dementia diagnosis. Written with heart-wrenching honesty, beautifully balanced with humour and music, it is, ultimately, an uplifting story of love in all its guises.
The play was originally commissioned in 2018 as part of Leeds Playhouse’s award-winning Every Third Minute Festival, an innovative seven-week collaborative festival of theatre, dementia and hope curated by people living with dementia and their supporters. Written by award-winning playwright Frances Poet (Fibres, Stellar Quines & Glasgow Citizens Theatre; Gut, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; Adam, National Theatre of Scotland at the Traverse Theatre), who is originally from Yorkshire, with valuable input from members of Leeds Playhouse’s pioneering creative programme for people living with dementia, the play will head on a national tour, including a run at Leeds Playhouse from 31 March – 18 April 2020.
Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining welcomes Maggie May as a key example of the theatre’s collaborative process and inclusive ethos.
‘We are committed to telling stories that resonate on a meaningful level, reflecting the lives of people across our city and the wider region. With this in mind, we’re particularly thrilled to be staging Maggie May, a play centred on a seemingly ordinary Leeds family who show incredible resilience and strength at a point of crisis. This inspiring work, rooted in our community and featuring recognisable characters who could easily be our own families, friends and neighbours, will play a pivotal role in our Spring 2020 season, highlighting our deeply embedded commitment to engaging with artists, communities and partners to bring relevant, significant work to the stage.’
When commissioned to write the play, it struck something of a personal chord with Frances as her father, who died in 2012, had been diagnosed with dementia.
‘I was interested to explore a story that showed a positive side post-diagnosis. That did not reflect the experience we had with my dad. Writing Maggie May has been, at times, a bitter-sweet process. It made me think how wonderful it would have been if Dad had been able to connect with the amazing work that goes on at the Playhouse.
‘Talking to people at the Playhouse made me realise the joy and resilience people have in their lives. I wouldn’t have picked up on that just reading about dementia. The people who contributed throughout the process were very generous with their responses and feedback. Their notes helped me to change aspects of the script. They helped me to make it more truthful; to really speak to people’s experiences.’
Lyn and Mick Haith, members of Leeds Playhouse’s Peer Support Group for people living with dementia, were invited to the read-through and provided valuable feedback that helped Frances shape and hone the finer details of her play.
‘Consulting on the play was such a surprise. For someone to listen to our thoughts and opinions, to take notice, was wonderful. Everybody in the group has a different type of dementia, so there were lots of different opinions and ideas and stories. We’ll have a real sense of pride when the play comes to the Playhouse because, for us, it’s life, it’s real.’
Leeds Playhouse runs regular activities for people living with dementia, including Our Time sessions for people living with dementia and their partners, Peer Support sessions in partnership with other cultural organisations throughout the city, and its pioneering Dementia Friendly performances. The Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and the National Dementia Care Awards. Maggie May is a further development of the Playhouse’s commitment to producing professional work on the theme of dementia; work that is rooted in lived experience, embedded in and accessible to the communities in which it works.
Maggie May plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Courtyard theatre from Tue 31 March – Sat 18 April 2020 as part of a UK tour. During the Leeds Playhouse run, all performances will adhere to the Playhouse’s dementia-friendly approach, ensuring that people living with dementia will feel welcome at any performance. Partner venues will be offering a range of dementia friendly performances to build on their own commitment to welcoming audiences affected by dementia. Each venue will host a free interactive installation front of house named The Listening Booth amplifying the voices of people living with dementia.
Tickets are on sale to Leeds Playhouse’s patrons and Playhouse Pass holders from Thursday 24 October, with tickets on general sale from Monday 28 October.
Full cast and creative team to be announced.
Maggie May, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse
Tue 31 March – Sat 18 April 2020, Press Night Wed 1 April 2020
Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk
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