On a wet Thursday May lunchtime Rachel Walker, GOG’s recently retired Worker, and I went to see a play that was part of Leeds International Festival, featuring a GOG Trustee, Ann West. It was a powerful play called “Talkin’ Bout My Generation.” The ages of the Cast ranged from 62 to 89. They had reflected on their lives – so far- and had written down their memories and thoughts which were developed into a script. The Group was founded and directed by Teresa Brayshaw of Leeds Beckett University. The play is also part of a research project.( An article about the play featured recently in the “I” Newspaper and was reviewed very favourably.)
Rachel and I found ourselves sitting in a pew at Mill Hill Chapel in the centre of Leeds laughing, crying, doing arm exercises and hearing about some of the statistics, experiences and hopes of older people.You will find useful statistics in a section of our GOG Parish Pack, and we always learn more don’t we….? We were challenged about some of the stereotypes of us older people, and I left at the end feeling uplifted and energised.
I found the performance really powerful. It was skilfully put together: a melding of serious material and fun. It was moving, informative and funny. There was a really appropriate and good use of the church space and it enhanced the performance being told about a William Morris window. a beautiful Italian mosaic (go and see them!), and that a previous minister Joseph Priestley had been the discoverer of oxygen and soda water and had developed his ideas in this very space! The soda water was given to his friend James Cook the explorer to sustain his crew during their next long sea voyage. I had lived in Birstall, Priestley’s place of birth, so I knew about him but not his connection to the church or soda water!
I realised the cast were sometimes saying words written by themselves or one of their colleagues. Which? The question enhanced the performance and diversified the cast as it didn’t matter who had experienced or thought some of the material. Sometimes I knew they were speaking about their own experience, and sometimes I wasn’t sure, which added interest. During a Brexit discussion: were the Remainers having to advocate Brexit and vice versa? Some read their scripts. Some didn’t.Were references to memory being described by those whose memories were failing or not?
I loved the change of tempo when we were invited to do exercises by Ann who in early retirement had run exercise classes for older people. I found one actor’s recalling the passionate kiss of young love with his wife to be and then falling in love with her anew when she was struggling with cancer that proved fatal, very moving. And then he was searching for his words and another actor intervened to help him out. Was that part of the script or not? And when giving the Notices towards the end of the Play the Minister of Mill Hill Chapel spoke about what we would hear. But, hang on, I had already heard it earlier in the play… Was that a ruse? Deja vue? Or had I imagined it? Was it to help us with a summary? Or was it to give something of the experience of confusion memory loss can bring…
I loved being offered a Toast of wine or the aforesaid mentioned soda water! I loved how the actors were being themselves: the animal loving woman who stroked the stone dog lovingly as she walked past the steps to the pulpit; the organ and piano music played exuberantly by a cast member; the academic describing the church; joining in the exercises and singing a rousing song we had been taught at the end of the performance. Finally, we were given a sprig of Rosemary for remembrance.
I am an older person, working with older people and I learned lots and was hugely entertained.Thank you to the cast of Cinage Theatre company and Leeds Beckett University.