Sam Brady’s career journey went from management consultant to a Buddhist monk and now a stand-up comedian, and in his latest one-man play he is tackling the stigma surrounding dementia and how diagnosis changes the family dynamic.
The play takes us into the lives of three generations of the same family, a twenty-year-old son, his 50-year-old dad and his 70-year-old dad, who decide to fulfil the granddad’s dream of restoring a classic car after he is diagnosed with dementia. “The granddad has always been the alpha male of the family and suddenly he has to learn to be dependant on others,” Sam said. “The dad Ian is at a stage in his life where he is having to learn to let go of the son as he grows up and become a parent to his dad who is living with dementia .”
The play centres around the lack of communication that the three men have, and the way they struggle to articulate their emotions. Sam, both the writer and performer of the play said the idea stemmed from a change in his own life. With his daughter in her early twenties, his parents were in a serious car accident on the M62, he started to take on the responsibility of being there for them. “They both recovered physically, but I think it suddenly made them feel more vulnerable and fragile. It was the first time I had to look after them,” Sam said. “Particularly my dad who has always been a fierce little bloke that didn’t take any prisoner’s, he suddenly looked vulnerable.”
This made Sam question who he was and what stage of his life he was in. “Then I started thinking about dementia as I, like a lot of people, have family members who have it,” he expressed. “I realised that dementia is an accelerated version of what we all have to deal with, where someone starts to disappear before your eyes and suddenly they’re not accessible to you anymore.”
When Sam first started working on the piece, it wasn’t about the men and had a lot of dominant female voices in it. “I was working with a woman at the time and she said it would be really interesting to take the women out of it and make the men have these conversations,” he said. Whilst there are still female characters, they are very much on the outside of this relationship. “When men are in the situation where they have to feel with difficult emotion, it exposes that we really aren’t very good at that,” Sam added.
Sam mentioned that the younger man in the show is much more in touch with his emotions, whereas Ian who is the same age as Sam himself struggles with how he feels because he believes he has to live up to his father’s expectation to be a man.
Wrestling with emotion his whole life, Sam’s constant career change spurred from difficulties he has had to deal with. Having a successful career as a Management Consultant, he worked ridiculous hours becoming obsessed with his career. “I was so obsessed with work and my marriage fell apart, so when it broke down I decided to let my wife have everything. After making a lot of money I let her have the house, money, everything. We had a six-year-old daughter and I just said as long as I can see my daughter, you can have it all,” Sam explained.
Always interested in meditation, he joined a Buddhist community and trained to be a monk. “It was brilliant and I became a better dad because of it,” he said. “Unfortunately my ex-wife got cancer and passed away quite suddenly, it was 11 weeks after her diagnosis. I then had to leave the Buddhist community to become a full-time dad to my parents and daughter who was nine at the time.” Wondering what to do for a living, he started doing consultancy again but hated it. Turning to stand-up comedy as a hobby, he then began to make a living from it which stemmed on to creating more meaningful plays exploring different topics.
The show will be staging a relaxed performance in order to allow people with dementia to enjoy the show and its message too. “I hope they will see some of the issues they deal with articulated on stage, and that I am able to voice some of their frustrations,” he said. “For example, people with dementia hate it when people class them as suffering with dementia as they hate to characterise it as suffering.” With the different stages of dementia, many people are still able to function living a normal day to day life and Sam wants to express this in his work.