I have been a fan of Julie McNamara's work ever since I interviewed her for the BBC nearly two decades ago. A deeply personal approach runs through her creativity and art that allows those who witnesses it into places in her life that many keep hidden, but all will have experienced. Her ability to create art out this of shared experience means that the wonderful Ms. McNamara can take you places that can be painful on occasion. Let Me Stay is one such performance, although it is a truly ecstatic pain.
The piece, created through her production company Vital Xposure, revolves around the stories of joy and heart ache, laughter and tears experienced by Ms. McNamara as she slowly looses her beloved mother Shirley to dementia. This may not sound like a comfortable subject for a performance but Let Me Stay explores it with humour, music, pathos and tragedy mirroring the truth of any of life's moments of passage. That is the corner stone of this show, truth.
Switching characters in a blink of an eye, from portraying her mother, her father, the family priest and even the local pub waitress, Julie McNamara transforms opening a window into the lives of her family with such tender clarity you feel you actually know these people personally. You shrae their emotions, the high and lows of the day to day experience of a family living with the spectre of dementia.
I felt more than privileged as I found myself sat in the front row behind members of Julie's family for this performance and hearing their laughter and tears enabled me to know the depth of truth and reality behind the portrayal of the various characters, and how rooted in real life Let Me Stay is.
This is a challenging show but a joyous one. The sadness of the loss is balanced with the joys of past memories and the hidden humour of real life and as I left I found myself strangely up lifted. Let Me Stay is a piece that resonates with us all. It was a splendid inclusion for the Unlimited Festival of disability arts as it demonstrates illness or disability can impact us all, that even in the darkest of times there can be light and that disabled people have normal lives too.
Image Copyright: Lesley Willis Use by Permission