We’re sitting in the late afternoon sun propping up the stone wall of the nineteenth century mill owner’s house that is now home to the Ukrainian Community Centre in Bradford. It’s a break between a final snatched movement rehearsal and lights up for the opening night of the Freedom Studios, Entelechy Arts co-production of Home Sweet Home. Florence Remmer is one of the older chorus members in the production. She tells me how she got to be involved:
I’m eighty-one. When I lost someone last September, I nearly went under myself. He was my heart, my whole life. My sister saw an advert for older actors in the local paper and she dragged me to Freedom Studios and got me involved in this old people’s play. Now I’ve got a new life. I’ve met new people. I enjoy it so much. It is something I should have done years and years ago.
The play is about people’s concept of the elderly. People often talk about us old people as if we are not quite with it, not quite in the world of 2014. They couldn’t be more wrong.
When I was sixteen it was a vastly different world in Bradford then. I worked in the weaving shed since I was fourteen. I was an innocent girl who always wanted to do some acting. But we were poor and I couldn’t do it. There was a big theatre down at the bottom of Leeds Road. One Saturday morning, very daring, I went down there and went up to this chap who was standing outside: “Do you need any actors or actresses mister?” He said “No”. So that was that. I went home quietly thinking: “It’s just for rich people. “ Me Dad said: “you won’t get into theatre lass, you’ve got to know people.”
Well after that I met my husband and that was my life. So I must have enjoyed the thought of it at sixteen, the theatre. I’d loved to have acted.
And now I’m here, sixty-four years later, I’ve done it. And I seem to have got into the part. Not just the lines, I’ve put my whole self into the person I’m playing. I’ve made a persona. That’s enough for me. I’ve done what I wanted to do when I was sixteen.
Home Sweet Home returns to Bradford in September before touring in early October to Deptford, south east London and Stockton.