Hampshire theatre project brings people with dementia and young actors together

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

Going to the theatre can evoke so many emotions, happiness, laughter and sometimes (but hopefully not too often) sadness.

Audience members are left with feelings…memories.

Memories are the focus of a unique theatre production in Hampshire where people, with varying stages of dementia, share their lived experiences with actors from a youth theatre group who are turning their stories into an insightful intergenerational play.

The show is called ‘Roots and Branches’, it’s being put on by the group ‘Theatre for Life’ with actors, including 21-year old Grace Aluko, tasked with the responsibility of portraying life in the not too distant past.

Grace Aluko (right) is one of the actors in the play Credit: ITV News Meridian

"The kind of stories and things that they bring to us is like incredible. Things that we haven't ever heard before.

"It feels a lot more pressure, but in the most peaceful way, because we know these people, we know their stories, and it's really important to us to let everyone hear their stories.

"It’s really exciting to know they’re coming to watch their stories."

Tickets are on sale now for Roots and Branches which is on at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham on 26th and 27th August.

The sessions have been taking place since January Credit: ITV News Meridian

The play is a tread through time starting in Southampton and Portsmouth on the 2nd June 1953 when communities came together to celebrate the Queen’s coronation.

National Lottery funded focus groups have been running since January to allow the actors to listen to the stories from their elders and get a deeper insight into life through the decades.

"It’s been a really beautiful experience” said Michelle Smith, Artistic Director at Theatre for Life.

"Those shared experiences have been really precious as well. So I’m, super proud, super proud of our young theatre makers for devising and creating a piece of theatre and celebrating our great members lives. It's just been amazing to watch."

  • Watch: One of the participants, Russell, hasn’t even seen the show yet but he’s given the project a rave review.

Matthew Winnington from the dementia support service Remind said,

"People have dementia. It's a degenerative condition. It is going to get worse. However, this is all about stimulating and creating really positive outlets. They're still human beings. They still have all their memories in their lives.

"They might not be able to express it anymore, but it's a really positive way that Ttey still have a life that's worth living and they can really enjoy themselves as well."