Participant Feedback

Describing our impact in the local community

By Heather Lilley

Paul, Warden at Minnie Bennet Sheltered Housing

The students came here and did three short plays, and after they did the plays, we split the audience up and the young people went round and they had a good chat with them. The older people all spoke about their life stories and where they came from.  They said I remember this and I remember that because the plays brought it all back. A couple of them had husbands who worked in the docks, so they had a chat about the dock years, so they relived life in the docks and talked about the poverty. Well, it was normal life to them, but when you look back on it, yes, it was poverty.

A lot of my residents grew up in the Charlton area, and they remembered the football club when it started - they remembered climbing over the wall and getting on to the pitch. There was one lady, Elsie, it turned out it was her mum who used to wash the team’s football kit. This was in the days when they had the football stands for the spectators and Elsie’s husband used to lay out the football kit for the whole team in the changing rooms.

The students did one play about jobs women did in the war. I found out a lot about my tenants that I didn’t know before. One lady worked at Woolworths in Lewisham where a bomb dropped.  Her friend was doing the window dressing and she got caught in the bomb blast and she was cut to smithereens. A couple of ladies worked on the night watch and memories of that were triggered by the play. one was in the land army and she married the farmer’s son... Even in my own family my great aunt went into the land army in Wiltshire, courted the farmer’s son, married him and never came back home.

Linda, Family Carer and Audience Member

The impact of the performances was very strong. It revived a lot of memories. For the youngsters it was all new… there were one or two disturbances in the audience but they just rode over that…they did very well… they didn’t freeze up… 

I’ll tell you what was brilliant: at teatime, after the performance, the actors came and sat down with the groups and remembered evacuation.  I certainly did… My mother was a billeting officer helping with the  evacuees, and we were all down in Devon … The discussion certainly went well in our group and people felt relaxed and able to share memories and anecdotes.

Caroline, Reminiscence Group Leader and Audience Member at Bill Walden Sheltered Housing

There was quite a lot of response from the women in the back row whose memories were triggered about women’s war work. There were shouts of recognition, and lots of exclamations of “Oh yes.” The students were strongly focused on the intention of their characters in each piece and because of that they carried the audience with them. They were playing to people with dementia, carers, volunteers - people not so used to live performance - and the students succeeded in holding their focus. The group can be very loud and noisy, but they were really very attentive, wanting to pick up what was said and receive all the nuances.

The students stayed for quite a long time afterwards, asking how accurate their performances had seemed to the audience members, checking to see if they had depicted the experience authentically. There were some very nice exchanges between the generations and lots of engagement, with the audience validating what the students were doing.

After the performance at Bill Walden House, the warden said to them, “You can come back any time, we’d love to have you. It was highly entertaining and very valuable.”   

Wioleta, volunteer

I volunteered in Reminiscence Theatre and enjoyed it so much that I stayed with the Reminiscence Theatre Company for nearly two years. I continued my experience by attending the European Reminiscence Theatre Conference in Poznan, Poland in October, 2013 and performing there a piece I devised based on materials I gathered myself. I am also planning to attend an RTA training course which starts in January at the University of Greenwich which will give me additional skills in working with the elderly. 

Volunteering gave me an opportunity to work with archive material, which I had never done before. I read stories that were previously recorded and found it very moving. I had many ideas which I used to create performances which brought those precious stories to life. Our meetings were full of energy; we improvised with the text, devised movement, decided on the order of the pieces and how to present them so as to do justice to the stories' authors. At the end of the day these weren't just stories, but peoples' lives, parts of them. I felt responsible for producing pieces which would not only have historical meaning but also an artistic outcome. 

We were given a number of opportunities to present our performances to audiences at care homes and to the general public. After each performance we were given time to talk to elderly which was an amazing experience, as we could hear their response and feedback to our work. This made me feel that our work was appreciated as the feedback was positive and created conversations. Pensioners often shared more stories with us and thanked us for our time and the energy put into theatrical pieces.

To me volunteering in Reminiscence Theatre made me more aware of what I want to do in my life and what career to pursue. It gave me an idea of what is it like to work with elderly people and how to use theatre in a therapeutic way. I believe this kind of theatre can have an actual healing effect on people with problems associated with old age and I am thankful that I was given such important opportunity that I can take on to the future.  

 

This page was added by Heather Lilley on 12/04/2013.