I Don’t Know What I’m Supposed To Be Doing

‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing’ was something Emma’s Mum said repeatedly in the early days of her dementia. Over 10 years later, now her mother has died, Emma finds herself asking the question for herself. Emma’s Mum was a librarian, Emma is a library assistant. Especially created for libraries, this new show goes on a journey through time, mother-daughter love and re-evaluation. A funny, moving, inspiring tale using poetry, theatre – and library books.



Emma Decent
Following the long, cathartic, personal and creative journey that was Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth (about my father), I always thought (perhaps crassly) that there was likely to be a show from my life and relationship with my mother. The last 16 years of my life were richly coloured by the aging process of both my parents, my mother’s being dominated by her dementia. I struggled to watch them change, to fail, to require me to step up (or not) to the challenge of changing roles and become ‘grown-up’ at last. To put to bed (or not) some of my resentments of their imperfect parenting as spawned in adolescence. My relationship with my mother (perhaps inevitably) was always the more loaded.
When my mother died in January 2015, despite the imperfections of our relationship and the fact she’d had dementia for over 10 years, I never felt more lonely. I gradually turned my attention to this possible project as a way of processing it all – picking up old poems, fragments of writing, memories, photos – and her legacy to me as embodied in her love for literature, culture and books.
I Don’t Know What I’m Supposed To Be Doing has been and continues to be one of the most satisfying creative and personal processes I’ve ever embarked on. I learnt so much from doing Aberystwyth. As well as developing more confidence and understanding of the creative processes involved in making theatre out of life, I feel I am growing in understanding of the potential cathartic nature of theatre – as true medicine for the audience and practitioner alike. I am taking this into my teaching – running workshops and classes in creative and life-writing and making drama from life. I feel this is something my Mum would be proud of.
I am very excited about I Don’t Know and am enjoying meeting audiences and delivering it to library and other venues. Contact me if you’d like to know more or book it!
Thank you to my employers at Calderdale Libraries for their help in the development of this project and for their wonderful on-going support.


Audience comments

‘Completely absorbing, entertaining and poignant.’
‘Very powerful performance. Loved the mixture of visual photos, music, props and story-telling.’
‘A wonderfully thoughtful, life-affirming, therapeutic, caring and compassionate portrayal of lives.’
‘You captured so beautifully and tenderly so much of what many of us go through with our parents.’
‘Very well put-together and performed.’
‘Absolutely excellent’


Up-and-coming performances

Sat 7 Oct 2017
Burnley Library, Burnley Literature Festival
Fri 13 Oct 2017
Brighouse Library, Brighouse Arts Festival
Sat 21 Oct 2017
Halifax Central Library – part of the programme of opening events for new Central Library
See Events for details.


Past performances

30 June – 1 July 2016
Hebden Bridge Library, Hebden Bridge Arts Festival (work-in-progress)
Weds 26 Oct 2016
Todmorden Library, The Write Stuff Festival
Fri 11 Nov 2016
Totnes, Devon – Drop the Story – A Festival of Solo Autobiographical Theatre
Tues 9 May 2017
Todmorden Library, Pushing Up Daisies Festival
Tues 12 Sept 2017
The Portico Library, Manchester


Related material

Mother’s Day
Old Wound


Photography & film

Lucy Cartwright