Sundowning Syndrome is an increasingly recognised state in which people with Alzheimers become agitated at sundown and prone to wandering.
Maylands couple Arielle Gray and Tim Watts, and mate Chris Isaacs were looking at creating a play around “the call of the wild”, when they came across the syndrome.
“We were fascinated by that natural instinct to want to escape into the wild,” Gray told the Voice.
The result is a bitter-sweet tale in the tradition of the epic western about dementia and redemption, Gray says.
“We didn’t want to just make people miserable.
“We aimed for beautiful images and fun scenes—and twists of sadness.”
It’s Dark Outside begins with the setting sun and an old man, who packs up his tent and goes wandering into the wild.
A mysterious tracker is on his trail as he gets swept up in a surreal world on the run.
“He is reliving parts of his life and then losing them,” Gray says.
The show uses puppetry, animation and live performances, along with original music by Rachael Dease.
Gray, Watts and Isaacs wrote the play (which is wordless) as well as creating the puppets and the latex mask Gray wears as the old man.
The trio returned last week from a successful performance of the play at Edinburgh’s fringe festival, the world’s largest.
Initial audience numbers were low, but word quickly spread, “and numbers grew and grew,” Gray says.
The vagaries of Scottish summer weather made wearing the hot mask a trial.
“I think I’m the only person to get heat rash in Edinburgh,” Gray says, adding she also bought Wellington boots to cope with the driving, cold rain that pelted down some days.
It’s Dark Outside is on at the State Theatre’s Studio Underground, September 12–14.
Tickets $25 through Ticketek.