February 18th, 2023Stage plays spotlight issues of age, health care
THE experience of losing her mother to a form of dementia inspired
Tylden creative Dawn Bamford to pen a play highlighting some pressing issues.
Next month that play The Vessel will be staged at The Social Foundry in Kyneton
featuring a cast and crew of impressive local talent while spotlighting some of the big
challenges around ageing and care-giving.
The 40-minute piece will be staged Saturday March 4, 8pm and Sunday March
5 at 2pm and at 5pm, and will be complemented by a 10-minute play Until Then by
Like The Vessel, the shorter play similarly deals with intense familial relationships –
in this case a father-son relationship – that can arise amid significant health challenges.
“The cast and crew of The Vessel and Until Then are a very talented bunch of local
and regional performers and it’s a pleasure to work alongside them as part of the
creative process, which started some four months ago as a reading around a table, over
a glass of wine at Chaplin’s in Trentham,” Dawn (pictured above) said.
Besides her creative activity, Dawn works in social support with Sunbury-Cobaw
Community Health and hopes the new stage production will go on to tour and
prompt useful conversation and policy changes.
She says she wrote The Vessel last year after she was initially prompted to write a
poem as a personal reflective response to the experience of losing her mother in 2017.
The poem has been worked into the stage play, marking its beginning and end.
“In early 2018, I wrote a poem, around six months after the death of my mother
in aged care,” she said.
“Mum was about four years into her initial early-onset dementia diagnosis with
Lewy bodies when she was admitted into care.
“Over a very long time she lost most of her physical and mental capacity and was
both non-verbal and non-ambulant at the time of her death. Between 2007 and 2017
I was a constant visitor, volunteer and eventually, part-time lifestyle worker there.
“I had a first-hand view of the operational and logistical complexity of care in this
setting and the limitations of this large-scale business model in the industry sector.”
Dawn said many of the problems of institutionalised care had been highlighted
in the Royal Commission recently, as a result of the rise of Covid in the sector, but it
had always been an industry in crisis.
“The private business model is really an imperfect solution to what is really a
social and community health concern, as much as it is a housing resolution for an
older population with high care needs.
“It survives because of the rampant ageism and neglect that we all contribute
to as a society. I do not wish to demonise any individual, service, group of workers,
families or healthcare agencies through my play.
“The aim is to humanise the condition that is dementia and remind us all of
the fact that it is a human condition and that sufferers have not had their minds
and memories erased, rather redistributed and rearranged, and that their emotional
intelligence and hearing are as sharp as ever.
“There’s an element very much of social justice and after the three shows in
Kyneton we’d like to see if there are touring possibilities. I’d love to see it prompt
more conversations and maybe some action and policy changes in the aged care
Dawn has a well established background in theatre, TV and screen including
acting and singing, but bringing The Vessel to the stage marks her debut foray into
playwriting and production.
“It is quite confronting but there are delightful moments as well,” she said.
“There are some moments of hilarity. Behind every single human being,
irrespective of age, there is a story that nobody knows.”
The Vessel features many local names including Suzanne Sandow (Mary), Kate
Moonie (daughter), Mel Thomas (PCA), Ian Rooney (nurse) and Rexine Perry
(clown), Paul Canlan (director) Tim Jones (poster and set design and construction),
Caroline Sarah (costumes) and Toby Dutton (graphic design and set construction).
Until Then features Paul Canlan (Rhys/son), Ian Rooney (Tony/dad).
Bookings through TryBooking online.
Words: Eve Lamb | Images: Contributed