LLLC’s Emma Clarendon chatted to Steve Cooper about Paradise Lodge, playing at the Tabard Theatre from the 11th October.

Hi Steve, thanks so much for talking to me. Could you tell me more
about what Paradise Lodge is about? 
Hey there and thanks for having me. Paradise Lodge is a musical comedy about a dysfunctional music duo doing a gig of 1940s music in a care home. We meet some of the residents, hear their stories and as the duo disintegrate, we see how the onset of dementia has affected the lives of those living with it and their carers. You can expect to laugh a lot, cry a bit, and occasionally laugh and cry at the same time – be prepared to sing (no pressure)!

How did the concept for the show come about? 
The play is based on my experience of helping to care for my mother-in-law,
Dorothy, when she was living with dementia. I’d sit with her, take her to the doctors, hospital, shopping, garden centre, dentist (getting someone with dementia measured for new teeth is an interesting challenge), hairdresser,reiki, lunch and looking round care-homes. We were together so much I started making notes, trying to make some sense of it. After we lost her, I went back to my notes and the play took shape. The scenes are all taken from life, sometimes word-for-word. A musician friend and I did some gigs in the care home where Dorothy was staying and that experience fed into the play too.

Alongside the show you will be going along to perform in nursing homes for the residents – how are you feeling about doing that? 
We have loved doing the care home gigs and are excited about making some new pals down South. A lot of people get upset visiting care homes and I understand the reasons why, but we’re over all that. It’s an audience, and a bloody good one at that. It’s the only setting where an audience member has ever said to me: “You won’t forget about us, will you?”. Everyone should visit care homes and say hello, it’s good for the soul.

Given your own experiences, what is the best advice you can give
anyone who is caring for someone with dementia? 
Don’t keep it to yourself, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Talk about it. Talk to
those with the condition, to family and friends, to professional carers; you’ll soon find out that you are not the only one who has been through this and might even be able to help others. Oh, and when visiting a person with dementia never say “I’m not stopping long”.

What do you hope that audiences will take away from Paradise Lodge? 
I want everybody to have a great night out and to leave the theatre knowing that when they deal with dementia, they are not alone.

By Emma Clarendon

Paradise Lodge plays at the Tabard Theatre from the 11th October until the 24th October.

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