A late summer-through-autumn tour has its difficulties and challenges.....not least in the footwear department. I have walked miles and miles along rivers, canals, country lanes, city streets, suburban paths and woods. During rehearsals of Finding Joy I walked the paths alongside the river in my children’s hitec sandals (comfy veterans of many a happy summer's ramble and riverside scramble). As I found my way over stiles and through fields of curious bullocks I visualised each scene of the play, thinking the thoughts of the characters and sometimes stopping to practice an action. In my flash new trainers (bought with the intention of going running on this tour) I took brisk early morning walks along the Worcester to Birmingham canal past strangely named ‘bottom’ locks as I went through the previous night’s performance in my head, or mulled over the personal stories of love and loss shared with audience members in the post-show chat.
In my cosy, fur-lined winter boots (much too hot for this mildest of autumns) I walked with workers on their way to industrial units in a new Welsh town, then along an unnavigable canal with thoughts of my mum, Meg, who lived with dementia for the last fifteen years of her life cared for by my dad, then by me and my brothers and sisters. My leather walking boots (my first ever proper walking boots) have stomped through autumn leaves, nettle-lined paths, seaside shingle accompanied by tears of sadness and of laughter as I thought through my first ever dementia-friendly show, which blew me away with the love, joy, frustration and emotion of the event. There was such great love and respect, as well as great honesty; one lady just looking at me dressed as Joy saying ‘Who’s this silly bitch?’ and another old gent miming writing me down in his little book!
I’ve still not found the perfect footwear for this tour, but each walk, whether it be thirty minutes snatched before jumping in the van to the next venue or a three hour hike to the next village between setting up in the theatre and warming up for the performance, I have been able to step through the emotions of the play, the reactions of the audience, the joy of performing and the impact of dementia on so many lives.