[State Theatre Company, October 2013]
I am holding my breath. Tears roll down my cheeks and I barely keep control. I join in the applause, though I am not ready to break the stillness. I am at the Dunston Playhouse, Adelaide, and we are at the end of a performance of Vere, by John Doyle.
He's brilliant, you know, Doyle, as a writer. The crafting of dialogue, the staging of scenes – it was as if we were eavesdropping on the moments of real people's lives. (not to mention all the technical details of Higgs Bosun, history, archaeology, and more) The actors were pretty skilful, too, in bringing the play, the characters, to life before us.
We see two evenings at the beginning of one man's Dementia; a fast-onset form of this undignified, frightening loss of self.
The playwright and actors portrayed not only this – the shaking hand, grief and interchanging confusion and clarity – but also autism, academic repartee, grieving son, over-zealous Christians (who made me cringe and want to stand up and say, we're not all like that ... )
the delight and wonder at creation that could have been a point of connection had the need to be right not got in the way
the contrasts and connections between the multiple characters the actors played
the trust and generosity and presence these actors gave to each other on stage
simple and effective sets, lights and sounds
the audience as extras, students in Vere's final lecture –
all this I noticed, and appreciated.
'... theatre is a temporal place where we come to connect, to tell stories about ourselves and hopefully see something that makes us feel less alone or understand ourselves a bit better' (Sarah Goodes, Director, Vere Program)
This story connected with my story – not because I have experienced Dementia (I have not, neither outside nor in), and not because I am a person of the cloth or university student or lecturer (I am all three). This story connected with mine because the shock, grief, confusion and loss of Vere were portrayed so as to invite me to feel these things with him; likewise with Kate's shock and grief, Gina's wonder, Scott's heartbreak, the conflict over faith.
At one point, the story did awaken a part of my story more comfortably left alone and more raw in these days following the launch of the collection of poems within which that story is told.
And so I sat, and then I walked to the car, in stunned silence, confronted with my own story, confronted by a story very much not my own. I sat, I walked, and now I lie in bed sleepless confronted with our shared humanity and the very deep need for faith (vere), for forgiveness, love and kindness, for others and for ourselves.