Ming Ho on the inspiration behind “The Things We Never Said”

As a scriptwriter on TV drama series in the 2000s, I worked on powerful storylines such as the domestic abuse of Little Mo Morgan in EastEnders – but they were always someone else’s story.  My new play for BBC Radio 4, The Things We Never Said, starring Lia Williams and Siân Phillips (on BBCiPlayer to 10 June), is a very personal departure.  Based on my experience with my mum, who is now 90 and in residential care, it explores the effect of dementia on your relationship with a loved one and on the identity of both parties: how do you know who you are or whom you love, as the bonds of memory erode?

Ming with mum Glenys 1976

Ming with mum Glenys 2006

In recent years, dementia has been dramatised in various media, notably by soaps Emmerdale and EastEnders, the film Still Alice, and Florian Zeller’s stage play, The Father.  It is an endlessly challenging syndrome to portray, and focus most often falls on the external manifestation: behavioural changes and social impact. I wanted to take the audience inside the heads of the characters and into their relationship, to feel the emotional and psychological landscape – and to shed some light on the intense human drama of late stage dementia, which is so rarely discussed.

The progress of mum’s condition took me out of professional circulation, as happens to many carers.  Silent for so long, I have finally found my own voice.  This is my story; listeners tell me it’s theirs too.  As one observed, it’s not really about dementia – it’s a story about love.