The lead in a local production of a tragi-comedy about the struggles of an Alzheimer’s sufferer and her two daughters, which is returning to Mullingar Arts Centre for a third run, says the she and her fellow cast members have been surprised by the impact it has had on audiences.
Bothered and Bewildered stars Mary Hughes as Irene, a mother whose grip on reality is diminishing as her Alzheimer’s progresses.
The play also features Clare Egan and Irene Dunne as her two daughters who are losing their mother in spirit but not in body.
As Irene’s condition deteriorates, she spends hours discussing how best to write her ‘memory book’ with her imaginary friend and favourite author Barbara Cartland (the novelist), disclosing family secrets that she would never divulge to her daughters.
This tragi-comedy is about memory, loss, secrets and, above all, love.
The Westmeath Examiner spoke to Mary, and she said that the effect that the play has had on audiences is testament to the playwright Gail Young and the team put together by director Sean Lynch.
“It has been phenomenally successful,” said Mary.
“I don’t know why exactly. I can’t put my finger on it. But audiences love it.
"They come away and say that they cried and they laughed but they thought it was so good.
“The play is really well written. She wrote it about her friend’s mother who is a dementia sufferer so it was very real to her.
“She structured it very well, every little nuance.
"People who go to the play and have any involvement with dementia whether they were carers or know a bit about it, they would all say it absolutely perfect.”
“There was one particular night when nurses who care for people with dementia patients were there – they said that it really hit the nail on the head.
"That it was on the button with regard to the disease itself and they were recommending that we would either do it in schools for students or that we would at least try and do it for nurses training to be dementia nurses.”
Mary says that though playing her role has been taxing emotionally, it has also been rewarding.
“I worked harder on this character than I worked on my Leaving Cert.
"I have eaten, drunk, and slept the part of Irene since last September.
"I contacted the Alzheimer’s Association, who were very helpful, I went to the social club for dementia sufferers over in the primary care unit and spent an afternoon there.
"I am going back – not because of the play – but because the people were so nice and so interesting.
“And I’ve done a lot of research online and read two or three books about the condition just so I could get inside the head of Irene.
“I think that is the only way you can do a part, particularly a part that is so emotionally charged.”