An interview with the star of television’s The Inspector Linley Mysteries, who stars in Still Alice, the stage adaptation of the best-selling book and movie of the same name.
Sill Alice is a play about early-onset dementia. Surely I’ll leave the theatre feeling glum?
“It doesn’t lecture; it is just a story that that you can relate to and it has got a momentum that carries you through. It’s about how it changes you as a person and how it changes you as a family. It is a very moving piece.”
Has doing the play taught you much about the illness?
“I had no first-hand experience of dementia, but I know now that there are a lot of people who are dealing with it and living with it well. They need understanding. Some people with dementia say that they often feel like they are watching themselves and that they struggle to understand why that can’t do certain things. But they still have a need and a want to be useful. They are still trying to live a positive life.”
Are there any simple ways that we can all support dementia sufferers?
“Yes – we can all stop using negative language! ‘Living’ with dementia rather than ‘suffering’ with, for example. Using positive language is really important. There is also a scene in the play where the consultant and Alice’s husband start discussing clinical trials, ignoring Alice and talking as if she isn’t there. It is easy to ignore the person with dementia, but it’s so important that we don’t.”
Early-onset dementia is on the increase. What do we know about how best to treat it?
“People are being diagnosed younger and we do know now that living well is important. It does become a very difficult and different journey.One lady hadn’t changed her clothes for a long time. She was aware she needed to, but because the wardrobe door was closed, and so she couldn’t see her clothes, she didn’t know where they were. Things like labelling doors and cupboards can be both practical and reassuring to someone living with dementia”
Still Alice has been hailed as a thought-provoking, moving and insightful play. Does it also raise awareness?
“The play is a series of snapshots charting the progression of the illness. It is a really cruel illness and understanding is so important. I hope it helps to raise awareness. I have a real belief in the project and it feels really important to continue telling this story.”
You are going all over the country with the play. Do you like touring?
“I’ve not toured since I was in my mid-twenties! Back then it used to be all about going shopping in every town I went to, but this time I am going to be much more cultured; I’m looking forward to visiting art galleries, museums and places of interest rather than hitting the shops!”