Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Suited Booted and Inked

When I was doing my PhD I belonged to the British Sociological Association’s “Aging Body and Society” special interest group.  I recall one event at the British Library when the amazing sociologist Les Back was the keynote speaker.  He talked about his early life growing up in south London and the significance of his niece’s tattoos.  They were proudly on display as is the norm today. But this reminded me of a few, older women on the Clapton Park Estate in Hackney who told me they concealed the tattoos they had done in the 1950s – 60s.  For them it still signified  that they must have been a bit of a scrubber to have had them done in those days.

Perhaps that is why tattoos – or whatever  is inscribed on your body – has such interest for me and why they are such good examples of Embodiment: that communion between your sense of self and the physical body you inhabit.

Anyway, working along with Scottee’s Notepad Warrior I assembled some images that spoke of embodiment in later life.  But they all feature young women.  Postmodern irony ?


                               Steve Tanner

A young actor being an older woman in “Wise Children” , directed by  Emma Rice at the Bristol Old Vic and based on the Angela Carter novel.  Underneath her bra and knickers is a body suit representing her naked as she appears in one scene.   She is a much loved, sympathetic character in the play with a penchant for wandering around as such.  On reflection, I am more appreciative of the  device of the body suit on a young actor in that it is true to Carter’s magical realism and the way she plays with identities.



I have long been fascinated by but sceptical of the Age Simulation Suit. A complete suit or a range of accessories that replicates the experience of sensory loss, reduced mobility and even pain.  A while back, when I read an article pointing out that children had great fun trying the device on, all in the name of reflective learning, mind you, this increased my interest in subverting the concept.   I did email a local centre that had one so I could  experience it for myself, but I didn’t get a reply.  Perhaps I’ll try again!

This is a young, female journalist trialling one.   What it lacks in style it makes up for in substance.  All that plastic and Velcro must cost a lot of money.  I think it could be replicated with salvaged / recycled materials and rendered much more jolly.



This is a young female model perhaps taking this kind of work whilst waiting for the next La Redoute shoot to begin.  Or it might be the wife or daughter of the director of the La Marquise company.  Or even one of the machinists.   Likewise ripe for exploration.  This style is called, “La Marquise Ladies Fleurette Super Soft Button Through Dressing Gown.” There are issues over just such a  dressing gown replacing  a vintage kimono in a scene I’m developing in Age Queer.

Finally back to the tattoos.  Please check out the images in the programme for the Age Against the Machine Festival in Deptford last October.  https://www.ageagainstthemachine.org.uk/    All the men and women are well inked up and I could identify with them immediately.

 You can read my review of this event  for Theatre Bristol through the link on the right.