Making theatre intergenerationally is the topic of the day.
We began with the From Docks to Desktops roadshow; a participatory exhibition of the research gathered during our foraging stage. There was a map annotated with pictures of factories that once populated Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Deptford, the Whiffs and Pongs of Bermondsey Quiz; a quiz that requires you to smell an unidentified jar, guess the product and the factory; and recordings of interviews with story tellers.
We were joined by Time and Talents visually impaired group who shared their stories of work, the local area and took part in the smells quiz. Michael who worked for Tanneries said the smell of the tanneries was as bad as the smell in that jar.
In the afternoon we discussed Bubble’s experience, methods and practice of making theatre intergenerationally. Jonathan Petherbridge, Creative Director spoke about the journey from a cast of paid actors to an open cast of community performers (open meaning no auditions) and the process of foraging, gathering stories from the community and presenting them back. He introduced the term Vernacular Theatre, ‘based on localised needs and reflecting local traditions’. The importance of being attuned to what is happening on stage, what is happening in the room; the sensual conversation between performer and audience, was also highlighted.
Writer of Bubble’s Intergenerational play Blackbirds Simon Startin said “It’s like I am commissioned by the community. As a writer I do not go in with a vision and the company fulfil. I go in and listen and write for them. Designer of Blackbirds Pip Nash said “It’s about responding to workshop material rather than text”. Making theatre intergenerationally is visceral. It demands its participants to play, explore, and investigate; engage with our primitive selves.
In the evening we put theory into practice with a scratch performance of our current intergenerational project From Docks to Desktops.
After the scratch audience members; storytellers, volunteers and friends were invited to give feedback in groups. They were asked what they liked, what they were not sure of and what the cast could work on. Groups were full of animated conversations; the love of the ladder and rope work, the sadness and poignancy of the typing pool the authenticity of the docks and factory sounds.
Performer Caitlin said “having the elders in the audience who gave their stories of which we are now performing has made me aware of a responsibility. A responsibility we have as performers towards the elders and their stories”.