Doing Porridge

I am writing this in a lovely little cafe round the corner from the Hub, where we have found the key (and the secret) to starting a day in a cold railway arch: coffee and porridge.

I want to write about the process so far to see in writing where we are at.

I started thinking about this show a year ago, at a DIY weekend about autobiographical performance. I wanted to make a show about something that I care about, and after two years of clocking in and clocking out of a care home with constant thoughts of ‘you just couldn’t write this’ I thought maybe I’d have a go. Then I noticed Ricky Gervais had already written Derek so I thought I’d make a small scale piece of contemporary theatre about it instead.

I handed in my notice at the care home partly because of a growing dislike of the management, but mostly to give being self employed ago. I was then invited to work on a fantastic project called Storybox, where I worked with Sara for 8 weeks of creative story telling in four day centres around manchester delivering workshops. This is where the following things happened:
– Sara and I bonded over our love of working with older people
– We ate packed lunches in day centre car parks between sessions, laughing and debriefing about the workshop we’d just done or quickly planning the next
– We got to know the participants well enough to know they’re characteristics: their catch phrases, voices, mannerisms, and stories
– We decided to make a show together

Fast forward a few months; past getting to know a lady called Hilda, a 20 minute scratch performance, a meeting with The Future, and a successful Arts Council application, here I am in a cafe after a bowl of porridge and a strong americano half way through the second week of research and development.

Last week we worked at Contact in manchester. We talked a lot about what we wanted to do, and we started to realise how broad this subject is. We had so many ideas, but they were all very different shows. We spent two days with Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari who helped us experiment in the space and sift through the ideas in our head.

We are struggling with what we want to say. Is it about old age? Or growing old, or old people, or the old people we’ve worked with, or dementia, or being young, or growing up, or care homes, or the care industry, or none of the above or all of the above and why are we doing it? Why us? Why us together? Why are we doing it in a theatre? Why live? …and who for? Us, a theatre audience, older people, younger people…

The work-in-progress we presented at Hatch in Nottingham was a good starting point. We stood in front of a projected video of Hilda and somewhere between short video clips of her in her living room talking about the show we’re going to do and us live in the space doing the show, we did a show. There is a lovely parallel between us and Hilda because she used to perform in a comedy group for older people. We talked to her about performing and she made suggestions about what we could do for the audience, which we filmed.
For the R&D period we wanted to bring some of these ideas forward and develop them more, so we are doing more than explaining what we’re doing as we’re doing it. We want to make a show with Hilda, but not as we do it. We want to make a show with Hilda, and then show it to an audience, ready.
If, in this show, we are suggesting that we are making the show as we do the show, there is a sense that there isn’t a show at the end of it, because that was the show. Which feels quite limiting. It restricts us to that format and those techniques and it becomes more about the making of a show than a show about the subject itself.
So we’ve been exploring how we can open up another door within that that takes it further than what we did at Hatch. If we are making a show with Hilda about old age, instead of about a performance we’re going to do, we are opening up the opportunity to explore and present ideas of old age between the three of us. What a woman in her eighties thinks about ageing, what two women in their 20s think about ageing, what three women who perform think about performing, what three women who have worked with older people think about ageing, what three women who have aged, grown, worked with older people, and performed think about what makes a good show.

We are trying to generate material at the moment, find interest ways to explore this subject, considering what might come up in another chat with Hilda but without relying on her for the show. If we go to see her again for another chat about the show and some more footage, then we need to have material that can fit in amongst that, and hope that together they say something interesting and beautiful.

So that’s what we are doing. Looking, finding, exploring, playing, talking, (laughing, eating, swimming) keeping warm, and appreciating the time and space we have to research and develop these ideas to eventually make a show.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Sara says Hi.

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One Response to “Doing Porridge

  • Hey lovely,

    Sounds great. Wot a nice writer you are…
    Still hanging out for a brew & a catch up when you’re free, all been a bit chocka lately.
    Hope the flat hunting is going well x

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