Taking theatre into the community
A requirement was identified by a local playwright to take professional theatre into the community to cater for those who may not be able to go out to the theatre themselves, thereby making cultural performances more accessible and inclusive.
Two performances of a play called ‘Sharing the Story - Make Do and Mend’ has been performed for older local residents. A new piece of professional community theatre, it was written by Hayfield-based author Jayne Marshall, based on the experiences of her mother and also incorporating personal anecdotes of some of the residents at Ashton House supported accommodation in Hyde. The story follows the lives of three women in 1951 all living locally and how tough life was for them in the post war years.
Jayne is associated with professional touring theatre company, 2 Boards & A Passion, that provides entertainment and education through a wide and varied range of theatrical routes to broad awareness and enjoyment of theatre and the arts. Her team makes a point of including the audience in the making of the play by sharing their stories, rehearsing with them and presenting the play within their environment or community.
The performances took place at the Grafton Centre and Age UK (Tameside). As well as Ambition for Ageing, funding was provided by the Arts Council and support in kind was donated by composer and song writer, Helen Copestake.
Over 100 people, including carers, in total saw the play and both performances were very well received by all. Many commented that it was good to show positive female role models based on real people to whom the younger audience members could relate.
The experience recreated happy memories that allowed the older members of the audience to remember their parents and grandparents, creating a nostalgic atmosphere that was positive and not at all melancholy.
Both performances stimulated conversations among audience members that went on long after the show was finished, as a variety of memories were evoked and shared.
Quotes from audience members:
“Thank you so much for reminding me of the courage and tenacity of my mother’s and grandmother’s generations. What an example to current and future womenfolk.”
“I’ve been told his story so many times, but to see it enacted has brought a whole new meaning to what mum went through.”
There are manifold benefits in reaching out and including older people activities, specifically designed for them, and with which they can readily identify. Theatre and performance are also activities that older people can share take part in with friends and relatives, sharing fun and laughter, and starting conversations with new people that can lead to long friendships.
Owing to getting such a positive reaction from audiences, there is now strong support for taking more shows out to other areas within the community. So, although the performances were originally designed to be a one-off pilot project, evidence is currently being collated to demonstrate how worthwhile and important this work was, and how effectively it can reach out to those who are lonely and isolated. The intention in future is to keep this project running and to expand it further. In the meatintime,one of the performances was filmed and will be made available online shortly.
Photograph courtesy of the Tameside Reporter
Ambition for Ageing Partnerships Officer
Tel: 0161 339 2345
Mobile: 07825 157 579