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Student creates touring theatre set to help people with dementia

People with dementia will be able to share their memories thanks to a touring theatre performance that was supported by a Nottingham Trent University (NTU) student.

Charlotte Wright and Suzy Gunn
NTU Student Charlotte Wright and HandMade Theatre Founder Suzy Gunn with George the Cat on the set of 'Tell me a story'

Charlotte Wright, 21, from Little Tey in Colchester, collaborated with Nottingham company Handmade Theatre to develop a set and costume design, which will support the development of their new show ‘Tell me a Story’.

Charlotte has customised three suitcases which not only carry all the props, costumes and puppet, but also function as a fold out table, a set of drawers and even a stage that is strong enough to be stood on by performers.

Another key part of her theatre design is a life-sized cat puppet she created named ‘George’ who adds an interactive and sensory aspect to the show experience to the audience.

George the Cat features fully moveable joints and tail and has proved to be very popular with residents of the two Nottinghamshire care homes they have worked with – Moreland Court in Carlton and St Andrews House in Mapperley.

As part of the development of the production, Charlotte supported the HandMade Theatre team with creative workshops listening to the stories and memories of residents with dementia living at the two care homes.

“George the Cat was inspired by many of the care home residents’ memories of previous cats they owned. They loved petting him and having him on their laps.” said Charlotte.

Charlotte has also designed and handsewn a customised waistcoat and apron that will be used by the performers of the show.

The waistcoat features envelopes for pockets, which contain letters and postcards which are based on real stories told by individuals with dementia about their lives growing up, holidays and other memories.

The apron features houses for pockets where small props can be stored as well as a village landscape along the bottom which is inspired by the care home residents’ memories of towns and villages where they grew up.

Almost all elements of Charlotte’s designs, as well as George the Cat are made from recycled materials sourced from charity shops.

The HandMade Theatre team will continue to develop the show, which will be performed at various care homes around the UK, where they hope more memories will be recalled by residents to be incorporated in future performances.

“I chose the project with Handmade Theatre because I thought it was an amazing opportunity to capture and retell the memories of the elderly that might otherwise be lost. I wanted to be part of something that would bring happiness and entertainment to the audience,” said Charlotte, who is studying BA (Hons) Design for Theatre and Live Performance at the Nottingham School of Art & Design.

Amy Nicholson, the Co-Founder of Handmade Theatre said: “We have really enjoyed working with Charlotte and her set, puppet and costumes will continue to support HandMade Theatre’s regular workshops in care homes and go on to contribute to a larger work that will tour nationally to venues and events including Nottingham’s popular Splendour Festival. We believe theatre should be accessible for everyone and no one should be left out, especially not the elderly who have incredible stories to tell.”

Helen Davies, Principal Lecturer in Design for Performance at NTU, said: “Charlotte was given a brief to design and build a simple, lightweight set that could be transported easily with two costumes and a puppet. The end result of what she has created is a fantastic example of creative design, technical ability and understanding her audience.”

In terms of the future, Charlotte has already managed to secure a job once she graduates, working with a large production company in London, that have made puppets for large film productions.

  • Notes for editors

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with nearly 39,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

    NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

    NTU is ranked 2nd most sustainable university in the world in the 2022 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

Published on 21 June 2023
  • Category: Press office