Dementia sufferer given private screening of Mamma Mia

Ben Arnold

A special screening of the new Mamma Mia movie arranged for a fan who suffers from dementia was a huge success after being held at a cinema in Newport.

Shirley Lewis, who is 57 and suffering from early onset dementia, had been to see to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last month with her daughter Rhiannon, and was singing along with the film’s score.

However, they soon left the Vue cinema in Cwmbran after ‘huffing, puffing and tutting’ from other cinemagoers made them feel unwelcome.

“My mum was really sad. She didn’t want to leave the cinema and yelled ‘no’ when we tried to get her out of her seat,” Rhiannon told the BBC.

But following a complaint made to the cinema on Facebook, the Cineworld cinema in Newport offered a private, ‘dementia-friendly’ screening of the film to Shirley and her family.

More than 100 people attended, including the Lewis family and fellow sufferers of dementia from a residential home.

Rhiannon Lewis said that the music in the film is her mother’s ‘absolute favourite thing’, and hearing it helps to soothe her, but she thought that other cinema goers may have presumed she was drunk.

Ms Lewis told the BBC of the screening: “The stress just melted away – it wasn’t an issue this time.

“People were free to move around, there was a whole residential home of people that came and they were standing and talking and children [were] dancing in the aisles.

“For those couple of hours she’s not confused, just in the moment and not having to deal with this daily battle she’s going through.”

Dementia-friendly screenings are gaining popularity, with the Picturehouse chain offering monthly events in conjunction with The Alzheimer’s Society.

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