CHALK at The Vic

Simon CHALK v2
Me, knackered, last week.

I PERFORMED MY SHOW CHALK at the Victoria Institute in Arundel, West Sussex, last week (Thursday 24 – Saturday 26 February).

I’ve raised nearly two grand for Alzheimer’s Society doing the show so far.

If you’ve not seen it, it’s me onstage on my tod for 75 minutes wearing a 1970s school uniform pretending to be ten years old. For the avoidance of doubt, ten years old is 38 years younger than my actual age.

Boy, the show hurts. It’s physically and mentally draining. There have been times when I’ve come off feeling like I’m experiencing shock or something, and that there must be easier ways of spending my spare time.

CHALK is about a man desperately trying to cling to his memories in the face of dementia. He experiences bewildering highs as the music he hears unlocks things in him long since buried and crushing lows as the illness shuts these memories down in stages. The world in Richard’s head begins as a sanctuary, finishes as a battleground. Some scenes are light, whimsical. Others are brutal. Somewhere in the middle of it there’s a message of hopefulness without mawkishness because I think that’s how the loved ones I’ve lost to dementia would have wanted me to tackle this.

I’m so proud of the show and the feedback I’ve been given but I never know how audiences are taking it as I’m up there in the middle of it. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

So, these words from Mike (c/o Arundel’s Big House band) who saw CHALK on Friday 25 February fair took the wind out of my sails.

Thanks so much for this, Mike.

‘Friday went to see the production titled “Chalk” which ran for three nights at the Victoria Institute. It was written and performed by Simon Carter and dealt with the subject of dementia, a challenging topic to say the least. I am in no way qualified to offer a critique of the evening, all I can really say is how it resonated with me. At a performance level it was an incredible outpouring of emotional and physical energy that surpasses anything I’ve ever seen on the stage. I’m normally knackered after a gig; the nerves, the tension and the act of creating all make a demand on you energetically. But Simon should have been allowed to lie down for a week to recover from one performance, let alone get up and do it all again the next night!

I thought the play was really cleverly constructed, alternating between moments of hysteria and disorientation, to vivid flashbacks from childhood and adolescence. The increasing blur between reality and memory world and the frustrations in communicating what was being experienced were all palpable. The disease itself was personified as an evil that no matter how successful can never claim the heart and soul of its victim, and most interestingly for me, an observation that I have encountered several times before, how successful music is in connecting directly to that heart and soul, serving as the trigger for moments of serenity and comfort. I have very little direct exposure to dementia, unlike Simon who had seen it work its evil through two relatives, but I felt from the play a sense of how it might be being experienced and how important are the sensory triggers, music in particular, in penetrating the veil it draws over the individual.

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t without a message of hope and dignity.’

  • See Mike’s original post here.