Cheap technology allows a theatre company to reproduce symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, giving the medical community key insights into the condition. Suzannah Butcher reports.
This is an interactive theatre experience for an audience of one. And while it has all the elements of good drama it's also doing important work in the understanding of Parkinson's Disease. The audience member hears the thoughts and sees through the eyes of of a 33-year old man who is developing the symptoms of Young-Onset Parkinson's. He is about to give a speech at a wedding, but a tremor in his hand is making it difficult to even use a spoon, and he's frightened. Liam Jarvis from Britain's Analogue Theatre company says the audience member wears a glove which simulates a tremor in their hand. SOUNDBITE (English) CO-DIRECTOR OF ANALOGUE THEATRE COMPANY, LIAM JARVIS, SAYING: "And they hold the screen in front of their hand and the sense is that they are feeling all the sensations and experiencing what the hand feels, so when you see the hand in the video attempt to pick up some soup and start tremoring and struggling to keep the soup on the spoon, that sensation passes into the user's hand." Professor of Neuroscience at Royal Holloway University, Narender Ramnani, says the experience will help those who work with, and treat, people with Parkinson's. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF NEUROSCIENCE AT ROYAL HOLLOWAY UNIVERSITY, NARENDER RAMNANI, SAYING: "The people who need to be in daily contact with people who have Parkinson's Disease will gain more of an insight into the mindset of somebody with Parkinson's. So you can understand why a particular individual is thinking the way that they do." Bob Taylor has had Parkinson's for 17 years, and is trying the experience for himself. Impressed with its realism, he says he looks forward to it being used by health workers. SOUNDBITE (English) PARKINSON'S UK USER INVOLVEMENT ADVISOR, BOB TAYLOR, SAYING: "I think it is a good tool, to help people, give them some idea, especially with the script in the film, because that lays a good grounding of other information about the condition." He's hoping it will help people understand the realities of the condition. SOUNDBITE (English) PARKINSON'S UK USER INVOLVEMENT ADVISOR, BOB TAYLOR, SAYING: "I would just like people to be more aware and not to feel that people are drunk or high on drugs if they are spilling drinks or soup. It's that awareness that will really make a difference to people's lives." The theatre company says it has received numerous requests from people with Parkinson's who would like their family members to try the experience.