Prague director Eva Rysová and scenarist Ondřej Novotný have created an experimental play called Six Billion Suns (Šest milliard Sluncí), to educate people about Alzheimer’s.
The play has garnered the support of the Czech Alzheimer’s Foundation as well as the Ministry of Culture and the cities of Prague and Brno. Following its premiere last November at Roxy NoD, it will travel to the the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from Aug. 8 to 16, 2014.
According to the Prague Post, the director and those involved in developing the project spent a year reading medical and fiction books, and watching films. The biggest inspiration came when they met two younger women who suffer from a rare form of Alzheimer’s.
Some of the cast also spent three days in a house for Alzheimer’s patients. “We spent the whole day with them from breakfast till evening. We were feeding them, singing with them, reading fairytales, doing crosswords. We were interested in how they behave, what makes them happy,” actress Paulína Labudová said.
One actress, Marie Jansová, has a grandmother who lives with Alzheimer’s. The grandmother grew up in a German-speaking environment, and she “stepped back in time” to when the German language was primary for her. “For me it was a very strange and hard experience because I couldn’t communicate with my grandma because she couldn’t remember the Czech words at all,” Jansová said.
They want the audience to be able to imagine what it is like to be disintegrating slice by slice.
The people involved with the play try to empathize with the patient’s perception of the world that he or she is losing a grasp on. They want the audience to be able to imagine what it is like to be disintegrating slice by slice.
Eventually in the play the whole tragedy of the disease is revealed. “In the patient’s environment an absurd and sometimes comical world is created. In some sense, it is the patient’s relatives who suffer more,” producer Eva Dryjová said.
Director Rysová said she become interested in the disease due to its proximity to what she considers the main elements of theater. “A person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease finds himself at some point in his own reality. And if we want to remain close to him and understand him, we must try to enter this world . … We require the same thing of our audience: without their active willingness to accept and enter the reality of the world created on stage, the theater cannot work,” Rysová told the Prague Post.
The production has won praise from a doctor who deals with the issue. “In the first minutes the audience is gradually transported into another world, a world of people suffering from this disease,” Dr. Eva Jarolímová said. “The young actors express experiences and fragmentary situations … from the daily life of Alzheimer´s patients in an authentic manner, with everything taking place in another world,” she said.