Age Exchange Theatre and the European Reminiscence Network – oral history / reminiscence theatre

Voices from the Shadows was a play which featured the experiences of people with dementia and their carers. Their words were delivered by two professional actors, Pamela Lyne and Godfrey Jackman, in highly charged extracts from their letters, writings and recordings. The extracts demonstrated anger and sadness as well as humour and compassion. The production was developed for the Alzheimers Society and an educational pack about dementia was also produced. 

Memory Lane drew on the stories of older people who had grown up in a single street in south-east London. Built entirely from verbatim memories, it charted their lives through the decades. The play reached 85 audiences across London and the south-east of England. 

Memories of War – oral history / reminiscence theatre 

This play was performed by the Greenwich Pensioners’ Forum at the University of Greenwich and based on a recent reminiscence workshop and archive material deposited in the Reminiscence Theatre Archive. A group of six women and one man aged 83-97 from the Pensioners’ Forum were invited to share their memories of the Second World War at a series of reminiscence workshops. They were interviewed as a group, taking turns to speak about their individual experiences, and then contributed to a general discussion which was all recorded. A draft script was devised based on the meeting transcripts, leaving areas free for improvisation, such as childhood games, shopping queues and the blackout. These were gradually developed and fixed. 

The play opened with the song ‘Run Rabbit Run’ which set the scene for the recounting of war memories, some of them intensely moving, threaded through with a spirit of resilience embodied in the performers themselves. There were stories of evacuation from London: some pleasant memories, others more disturbing, such as the case of one woman sent to a rural area and split up from her siblings. Another woman recounted the terror of the bombings as she curled her body over onto her knees and put her arms over her head; the distance between stage and audience collapsed as the audience witnessed a universal depiction of the lived experience of aerial bombardment. 

For more information contact: Pam Schweitzer .

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