Saturday, May 25, 2019


Summer 2018 I was lucky to be involved with the Bristol Old Vic Young Company’s production of “Make More Noise”, this marking the centenary of some women being granted the vote in the UK.  It explored what advances women have made and, in no uncertain terms, called out  how much needs to be done to achieve true equality.  Hence the title taken from one of Emmeline Pankhurst’s speeches.   In fact making more noise is what many of us older men and women are doing on a range of issues.

That the “MeToo” Movement was well under way by then lent fuel to the energy and vision the Young Company girls brought to this piece, under the direction of the amazing Lisa Gregan, ably assisted by Maisie Newman.    There were only four of us women involved of whom I was the oldest but we were readily absorbed into the collective endeavor. A great leaning experience for me.  

A herniated disc cut short my involvement  just before the show opened.  Very depressing but timely  in that scans revealed a lot of wear and tear problems with my spine. 

During rehearsals we all wrote pieces that connected with women we admired, or were close to, known and unknown and from all corners of the world.  Madonna was one such woman cited by the girls.   Her strong speech on ageism chimed with my reflections at the time on later life.

Here’s some of what I wrote:-

Age Part One

I am 66 years old.

I self-identify as a woman. 

I am on my home from work and I’m feeling good.

And I think, I think I look good.

 I’m wearing my vintage St. Laurent  jacket and Russell and Bromley boots.

But I confess they’re second hand.  I’m not that flush.

And I’ve just had my highlights done.

In my left hand I have a Diamond Card - but don’t be fooled.

It’s an  Old Age Pensioners’ Bus Pass. I’ll demonstrate how it works.

 Watch carefully the interaction between the card and the mottled, wrinkled right hand. One reinforces the other. If you’re not careful society can get you just where it suits.

A woman – my age? – gets up to offer me her seat.

Helmut Newton's icon shot of Yves Saint Laurent's /le smoking'

We all age.

 But to be  “old” is to have your sense of self stripped away.  

Your identity,

Your professional self. 

Your femininity,

Your sexuality.

I am 66

Deal with it.

 Age Part Two

No “Me Too” for you!

Not so, my friend Marlene would say.

After being harassed on holiday in Tenerife by hungry, young men

who took her and her girlfriends for ageing sex tourists.

She’s her own woman, is Marlene.

 Out there tonight as it goes.

Wearing her black corset underneath a man’s suit she had made

 By a Soho tailor sometime in the 70’s.

She’s slicked back her hair,

 and with a can of Stella in one hand and her phone in the other,

 she’s all set for her granddaughter Katy’s Hen Night.

 All the girls, all the women making more noise, having a blast,

For one night ruling the world even if its only Bristol Harbourside.  

And in quiet moments,

 in the Ladies,

 they’ll  tell how life once was, is and how it should be .

And nobody, but nobody, will tell Marlene how to age better than she’s doing already.

Finally, a big thanks to all of my peers who continue to take part in Extinction Rebellion protests.   Particularly our old family friend Oliver, also in his 60’s,  who stripped off in the Houses of Parliament a couple of months ago to make clear to our government how much they need to do to protect our planet. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


First up “Us” at Bristol Old Vic’s  Weston Studio earlier in April, featuring us Adult Company in a piece of theatre which tapped into a presentation of our fundamental sense of self as opposed to the adoption of a role.  A valuable exercise in performativity, in that we riffed on our individual and collective identities in the creation of theatre.

But I mention “Us” for two, practical reasons.  Firstly because this group, whatever its composition, from course to course, has always been  all-ages inclusive as evidenced in the image of us with our amazing director Adam Peck (in the middle with the beard).   But also because its good to have a picture in a post and illustrating  performances I’m going to reference below  by copying from websites, has not been easy.

Moving across town  to the Trinity Centre.   Everything I’ve seen at this venue (admittedly as a volunteer steward) has been powerful,  flagging up uncomfortable aspects of society, social injustices and prejudices ignored by policy makers.  Scottee’s “Fat Blokes Show”, Jackie Hagan’s “This is not a Safe Space”, Rachael Young’s “Nightclubbing” and Darren Pritchard’s “Rent Party”  all part of Trinity’s Ignite seasons,  have made a lasting impression on me. Scottee so much so that I plan to sign up for his Notepad Warrior course. And certainly dig deep and encourage my friends to do so for future performances.

Likewise the “Full Bloom” festival last weekend.  I went on the Saturday, took part in a panel discussion, then was totally in awe of   Bristol-based Gerry’s Attic Dance Company and Cardiff’s Striking Attitudes. This festival showcases  the contribution  older men and women make to innovative, contemporary dance in the UK., a diverse range of dancers  commanding the space and storytelling with immense  clarity and sincerity. I was struck by the confident interaction and solidarity within the Gerry’s Attic company in pieces such as “When the Dust Settles” and “Traveller”.   Both  works  were strong, assertive statements, underscoring the creative potential of the company and making you wonder what they would go on to explore next.   

“Bloomin’eck” and “Seaside” could be perceived as falling into the “light and fluffy” category of entertainment but I did not find them so, both having  depth.  For example,  the three dancers  in “Bloomin’eck” were so physically and emotionally energised  by the beautifully overblown strains  of Elvis’s “The Wonder of You”  that they transmitted to   us  the audience the same  sense of  transcending  the  routine of our everyday lives.

Striking Attitudes’ “Time Breaks the Threaded Dances” made an equally  strong impression on me.  The integration of music (Bach), poetry (Auden) and the fine detail of the choreography combined to create what seemed to me to be an elegy to the dignity yet vulnerability of women in later life.

Gerry’s Attic Dance’s  “The Line Up” carried forward this essential vulnerability.  For me it captured what is known as  ‘ identity stripping’ as we age.  A loss of the social identities  that once reinforced our sense of self.  Their substitution  with  the role of ‘Carer’  was performed with a thoughtful simplicity, each facet of the carer’s life mimed then passed on from one dancer to the next. That they were seated at this point made this more effective, given that  the role of carer is inevitably perceived  as low-status.  I m reminded of an expression I discovered some time ago; “The Carer on the Couch”, sat there being spoken down to by social care professionals. 

All told it was reassuring to see dance works that conveyed a sensuality and an ease and delight in movement.  A big contrast to the type of social dance advocated for older people, research studies of which I’ve come across in the past.  For example formulaic styles  such as Line or Circle dancing, the benefit deriving from the being together and taking exercise  rather than any creative process. Fortunately the tide is turning, the artistic potential of older men and women is in the ascendant.

Massive thanks to Julia Thorneycroft, artistic director Gerry’s Attic Dance, Vicki Hearne, artistic director Untold Dance and assistant director with Gerry’s Attic and of course all the performers who made this such a great event.