Yesterday I was invited to contribute to a Small and Thoughtful event hosted by London Bubble exploring theatre making and older people. It was a great opportunity to blow the dust off past experience and celebrate the performers who I apprenticed myself to over thirty-five years ago.
Afterwards we went for a drink in the Spread Eagle, only its not called that any more, it’s the Mayflower and the governor’s wife who used to sing like a soprano is long gone. We didn’t have to step over kids listening in on the door well for a strain of Patsy Moran singing the laughing Policemen. Just some bloke in a suit getting a nicotine fix before going back to his early Friday evening drink.
In Elephant Lane, in the old sack factory, now the offices and studios of London Bubble Theatre Company we had been talking about theatre making; theatre making and older people. ‘What do we need to know? What are the skills? What are the challenges?’
I tried to conjure you back into the room.
The way you literally took life to
the edge because that was where you had lived: across, through and within all that the twentieth century had thrown at you. The way that you bounced back with a sleight of hand that we would now call resilience and write about in public health documents.
Perhaps it is only now as the disguise of age starts to creep across my own face that I begin to understand the force and energy of your radicalism. The way that you danced and sang and story-told out your existence. The way you named your place in the world.
Now decades later the new old are your children’s generation. We have taken the raw theatre that you lived (and survived on) and staked out the fence posts. We set up the enclosures and created a world mediated by funding applications and ‘applied practice’. Now we fill the awkward silence of our not knowing with theatre games and exercises; with techniques and interventions. We allow ourselves to become uncoupled from the natural flow our own history.