The Volume Of Silence

Finding Joy
Walker Theatre
18TH/May/2013

The prospect of watching a play focussing on the desperate debilitating condition that is Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t sound like a recipe for a usual Saturday night. However in Vamos Theatre Company’s, Finding Joy, the illness is not only dealt with frankly and humanely, but with great candour and humour too. Importantly, and it was all done without speech and relied solely on gesture and character; and it was all played within the difficult  constraints imposed by masked theatre..

Joy is a sweet old lady in the Autumn of her years. It is clear that her memory is going and her busy daughter doesn’t have the time or inclination to afford the care that Joy needs. It is only when misfit grandson, Danny, becomes her carer that a wonderful human bond occurs and slowly, as the play unfolds,  Joy’s unremarkable backstory plays out and we are transported to  world war two in a bombing raid and then taken through the dance hall of the 1950’s. Eventually the whole family unites in their care for Joy and with love and understanding  Joy achieves a whole new quality of life.The story is not only simple but so widespread; Vamos’ work  highlights issues that can be faced by every family affected by the tragedy.

Mask Theatre is a genre that has been with us since the beginning of time. Right back to the ancient greeks, and in the early Eastern world’s, Kabuki and Noh Theatre, we see mask repeatedly being used. It is about the anonymity of the player initially, but it also gives us a fascinating canvas to hang the narrative on. There is a deceptive simplicity about mask if it is performed well and  Vamos are the best, and demonstrate this through every facet of the show, the art work involved in the making of the masks is astonishing. When one audience member commented at the end that they thought they saw the expressions on the faces change, it was clear that Varmos were getting it right. We read so much more than the face when we communicate.

Finding Joy is a conduit of emotion and was skilfully portrayed by the movement of arms, fingers, head tilts, actions and reactions. With attention to detail and a plethora of theatrical semiotics this show is a delight. It amuses, saddens and heartens all at the same time.

So many families become affected by Alzheimer’s yet there hasn’t been many theatre companies prepared to grasp the nettle. Finding Joy, demystifies the effects of the condition, somewhat, and  draws attention to the fact that it’s not only the patient that is sucked in by the evilness of the disease, but  families are too.

To embark on such a sensitive exploration and to reflect such understanding takes genius. There will never be a fun way of talking about this disease and the world would be better off without it for sure, however with enlightening works like this one, we learn that anything that happens in this sphere we call humanity, is better dealt with through sensitivity and understanding.

It is because of simply making that point alone, Vamos have earned this five star review. It would be higher but the scale only goes to five!

This is a five star review.

Owen Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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