Such a brave story to tell on stage: Australia’s first musical on dementia premieres September 7

Co-creators, the father and daughter team of Dr Duncan McKellar and Erin McKellar

Australia’s first musical on dementia – with a pop-infused score and message of hope – will have its first showing in Sydney on Thursday, September 7 at the Seymour Centre.

A Box of Memories, first performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in February this year, has been co-created by father and daughter team, Dr Duncan McKellar and Erin McKellar, with inspiration from their own family story of Duncan’s mum.

Both Duncan and Erin said they were overwhelmed by the positive response from Adelaide audiences when the show was performed in a workshop form. Now they are bringing the show to Sydney.

“So many people kept coming up to us and saying, ‘thank you for telling our story – that is just how it was for our family’”, Duncan said.

“We realise that this is a story that really resonates. Right now, 1.6 million Australians are caring for someone with dementia.”

Another show is planned for Adelaide on Sunday, September 18 with plans to take the show to regional locations.

Duncan, a psychiatrist who specialises in the care of older people, also brings to the production an expert perspective, being one of the authors of the landmark Oakden Report into the tragic circumstances of the Oakden Older Person’s Mental Health Service in South Australia, which was a trigger for the Aged Care Royal Commission.

He is now a clinical specialist with HammondCare’s Dementia Centre.

Erin is an emerging vocalist, songwriter and composer who is currently completing her Doctorate of Music Arts in Music Theatre Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

A Box of Memories is an intimate musical that presents perspectives on what it means to live with dementia from diagnosis to the end of life through a character called Lizzy, a woman in her 70s.

Then there is Sonya, her daughter, who is coming to terms with her mother’s illness and the character Jeremy, a doctor who rediscovers his humanity through providing care for Lizzy.

The production, directed by Director Dr Narelle Yeo, has a versatile musical score performed by a five-piece band.

Erin said caring for someone with dementia comes with so many experiences and emotions.

“I have tried to convey this through the score. There are moments that are incredibly moving, that are funny, that are frightening but ultimately the score is full of warmth and hope,” Erin said. “You will love the music, it will make you laugh and cry, and you will want to listen to it on repeat.”

Duncan said the idea of hope, a theme often discussed by the acclaimed Professor John Swinton about a person’s experience of dementia, is central to the story.

“Even though a person might lose their memory, they are actually sustained and held in the loving memory of their family and community,” Duncan said.

A Box of Memories is on at the York Theatre at the Seymour Centre, for one night only on Thursday, September 7 at 7.30pm. To get your tickets, go to

The Sydney show is in conjunction with HammondCare’s International Dementia Conference 2022 Brave New World at the Sydney Hilton on September 8 and 9. For more, go to International Dementia Conference 2022 program and International Dementia Conference 2022 speakers 

The Adelaide show is being held on Sunday, September 18 at 7.30pm at St Peter’s Girl’s Arts Centre, Stonyfell Rd, Stoneyfell. For bookings for this show, go to


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