• Ashleigh Owen

Carole's Turn R&D

I'm sure you've seen my relentless posts on social media recently about spending a week at the Everyman and Playhouse theatres beginning the research and development of a new project I'm working on with my partners 77 year old Nan Carole. We are making a show together about ageism, feeling invisible, feeling undermined and being underestimated. We want to highlight using stories and a lot of humour the general attitude today towards older generations. This fits within my body of work that aims to dispel myths and stereotypes for people who are "othered" by society. We have a fantastic week together, we had a lot of conversations and I did a lot of listening and learning. The week was also jam packed with activities which I thought i'd share with you all.

Day 1: We spent the morning talking about the lack of options she had growing up being a girl from a working-class family in a small Welsh village. We talked about the role of a wife and conventional responsibilities getting in the way of artistic ambitions. Carole educated me on how people treat you when you are "elderly" and how people constantly undermine your ability to do things. Carole told me a hilarious story about her attending a Zumba class for the elderly which I managed to get on film...

In the afternoon Carole had a photoshoot with Chris Grundy and lets just say Carole was not in the slightest bit shy in front of the camera. Out of all the beautiful images this one is my favourite.

Day 2: After a morning of writing we met up with one of Liverpool's best loved actresses Eithne Browne who Carole got on with like a house on fire. They both had a lot of similar lived experiences and Eithne enjoyed hearing about the project and told Carole she has to get up on that stage! Eithne was so eager in fact, she insisted Carole saw the Royal Court's Studio Theatre. They both got on stage and Carole even performed a little song!

Day 3: After more writing in the morning we went to the Royal Court Theatre's Variety Lunch Club which is an afternoon variety show aimed at the over 60's. This was a chance to meet our target audiences and to see what type of shows are attracting them to the theatre. Carole (as usual) made friends and got chatting to a husband (80) and wife (78) who loved the idea of the project and agreed they would like to see people of their age portrayed on stage in a positive and factual way.

After the show we went back to the Playhouse Theatre to work with Actor and Theatre-Maker Carl Fowler on theatre improvisation. I was keen to see how Carole would find having to make up scenes on the spot but no exaggeration, you'd think she had been doing it for years. She was hilariously funny and I salute Carl for keeping a straight face (most of the time). Here's a little clip of the pair improvising Carole coming home from holiday to find Carl has lost her dog while she was away.

Carole and Carl were a dream team <3

Day 4: Carole had a well earned day off to do a bit of sight seeing in Liverpool while I started writing a mock script of ideas prompted by Carole's stories.

Day 5: We started the day reading our band new mock script to Francesca Peschier, the head of New Works at Everyman Playhouse. She seemed to really like where we are going with the piece and gave us some important feedback. The three of us had long chats about imposed limitations, squashed spirits, activity for people around Carole's age and the need of spaces that help make people feel welcomed and comfortable. It was a gorgeous afternoon.

In the evening we did something very special. We performed our script at Mooncup Theatre's scratch night at 17 Love Lane. This was the first time Carole had performed in front of an audience since she was about 15, it was an emotional experience for everyone. Of course, Carole SMASHED the performance and had everyone laughing and crying.

What a week! I'm so excited about this project! Hopefully we will be back together early next year doing another week of research and development to continue our creative journey together.




© 2020 Ashleigh Owen