New play alert! Maggie May premieres at Leeds Playhouse

Leeds Playhouse and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch are co-producing a new play by Frances Poet. It was originally commissioned as part of Leeds Playhouse’s Every Third Minute Festival.

Maggie May is about an ordinary Leeds family learning to cope with a dementia diagnosis. The play is written with heart-wrenching honesty, balanced with humour and music.

Frances Poet is an award-winning playwright with many credits to her name including Fibres, Gut, and Adam. She’s worked with many people living with dementia to help shape this piece, including members of Leeds Playhouse’s Peer Support Group for people living with dementia. They have been invited to the read-through and provided valuable feedback.

I really admire and respect Leeds Playhouse’s commitment for improving the lives of the local community. The theatre regularly runs activities for people living with dementia. This includes peer support sessions and of course Dementia Friendly performances of their shows. And now it’s artistically putting a spotlight on the issue and highlighting the devastating impact of dementia in an uplifting and positive way.

Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining says: “We are committed to telling stories that resonate on a meaningful level, reflecting the lives of people across our city and the wider region. With this in mind, we’re particularly thrilled to be staging Maggie May, a play centred on a seemingly ordinary Leeds family who show incredible resilience and strength at a point of crisis. This inspiring work, rooted in our community and featuring recognisable characters who could easily be our own families, friends and neighbours, will play a pivotal role in our Spring 2020 season, highlighting our deeply embedded commitment to engaging with artists, communities and partners to bring relevant, significant work to the stage.”

Frances Poet writes from experience as her father, who died in 2020, had been diagnosed with dementia. She says: “I was interested to explore a story that showed a positive side post-diagnosis. That did not reflect the experience we had with my dad. Writing Maggie May has been, at times, a bitter-sweet process. It made me think how wonderful it would have been if Dad had been able to connect with the amazing work that goes on at the Playhouse. Talking to people at the Playhouse made me realise the joy and resilience people have in their lives. I wouldn’t have picked up on that just reading about dementia. The people who contributed throughout the process were very generous with their responses and feedback. Their notes helped me to change aspects of the script. They helped me to make it more truthful; to really speak to people’s experiences.”

Maggie May plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Courtyard theatre from 31st March to 18th April 2020 before heading off on a UK tour. All performances will have a dementia-friendly approach – so those with dementia will feel welcomed at any performance. Keep an eye out on the Leeds Playhouse website for more information.

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