Combining a lyrical text, immersive staging and an enigmatic and compelling performance style, Autobiographer draws us into the unravelling mind of the central character, Flora. Voiced by multiple performers, Flora reveals a curious and evocative portrait of a life refracted through the lens of dementia. Autobiographer is a tender, poetic and provocative work that features a cast of four and a bold, electrifying score of voice and sound.
Autobiographer toured the U.K in September 2011, premiering at the Dublin Fringe Festival and went on to appear at The Albany, Deptford, The Drum, Plymouth, ARC, Stockton on Tees and mac, Birmingham. Autobiographer appeared for an extended run in London in April 2012, with the original cast of Janet Henfrey, Alice Lamb, Penelope McGhie and Melanie Wilson, and after at Mayfest in Bristol from 22nd - 24th May.
View trailer here.
Autobiographer has been funded by Arts Council England and a Wellcome Trust Arts Award. It was developed as part of Fuel at the Roundhouse and the Jerwood Residencies at Cove Park, which are supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and at MAKE 2010, an artist development programme supported by Absolut Fringe, Cork Midsummer Festival, Project and Theatre Forum. Development is supported by ARC, Stockton on Tees.
Work in progress showings of Autobiographer took place at the Roundhouse in October 2010. These performances marked the culmination of a research and development period funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Autobiographer is about memory, the memory of an 80 year old woman, Flora. Flora happens to have a dementia, but the piece is not about dementia, it is about a woman who has a dementia. In order to begin to understand this experience, Melanie spent periods during the six months leading up to the showings, learning about dementia and its effects on memory and identity. She was mentored and guided in this by Dr Sube Banerjee, through whom she was able to spend time listening to and observing the Mental Health in Older Adults and Dementia team at The Croydon Memory Service.
As Melanie began to write the script for performance, she also benefited greatly from the extensive information available from the Alzheimer’s Society. Through the kindness of Dave Bell from The Alzheimer’s Society in Lambeth, she had the opportunity to participate in a Singing for the Brain scheme, talking and singing with people visiting a day care centre with varying stages of the disease.
A book by Samantha Harvey entitled ‘The Wilderness’ also had a profound impact on her early reading around the subject, and latterly The Trebus Project, an archive of life stories, letters, drawings, films and music produced by artists working with people with dementia in care homes and hospitals across the UK, also contributed wonderfully to her understanding of the beauty of how people with dementia can and do express themselves.
If you would like to contact Melanie or Fuel about any thoughts or issues surrounding this project, or for further information, please refer to the details in the Contacts section of this website.
Photo: © Monika Chmielarz