Sharing theatre as an antidote to loneliness

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At London Bubble we believe that the WHO and WHERE of theatre making matters. That’s why next week you’ll find us taking a company of non-professional older adult performers to sheltered housing, an alms house, a care home and a conference.

Every week Bubble artists lead theatre groups in these sorts of older adults’ residences as part of our Tea Break Theatre project. They are social, gentle, participatory theatre groups which celebrate the fact that the older adults in our community have a wealth of stories to tell , great imaginations and a wicked sense of humour! But what we often find is that they need a lot of encouragement to take part and tap into their innate creativity.

It’s a symptom of loneliness.

What happens if you don’t feel part of a community? Don’t feel anyone else ‘gets’ you? If you don’t see yourself and your experiences represented?

London Bubble makes theatre in and for ‘invisible’ spaces because we make theatre with people who find themselves in less visible aspects of society. If you don’t have the means to access theatre and creativity, London Bubble will bring it to you.

Bubble is the only company taking theatre performed by older adults to older adults in their home environments. On our tour of sheltered accommodation last Autumn, I saw the difference it made when older adults saw someone ‘like them’ performing – some audience members spontaneously told us they’d expected to see younger performers. They were surprised to see their peers on stage.

Our older adults company devised their show ‘Beneath the Papers’ themselves, from scratch, carefully and expertly led by London Bubble theatre professionals. Initially very wary of the prospect that the show could be about anything they liked, they developed the story of Archie who we meet as an older man whose wife, Mabel, has mysteriously disappeared. As the performers take us on a journey to explore Archie and Mabel’s relationship, it’s evident that their audiences feel a connection with the play’s themes. They described it as: “Realistic, uncensored and emotional.” When they chat to the cast over tea after the show it becomes apparent how few of our audiences get to experience live theatre. One person told us that, aged 74, this was the first live theatre performance he’d seen.

So, when the next step is to encourage our audiences to join a London Bubble group themselves, the response is more likely to be ‘why not’? Suddenly, tapping into your personal creativity, using your imagination and sharing stories feels like something you can do too! If they can, I can too. That’s why touring a show created and performed by older adults to residents in sheltered housing is so transformative. Theatre is no longer only something other people do on stage in a big venue. It’s something anyone can do wherever they are.

Our Tea Break Theatre groups build a sense of community. Neighbours get to know each other and connect on a deeper level through sharing stories, imagining wild and wonderful things, being silly and profound together. As always, the older adults we work with describe the impact far better than we can:

“It takes away loneliness, takes away worries […] because we all get together creating, dancing, telling stories, we even have exchanged phone numbers. Before, we didn’t even know each other.”

Beneath the Papers will have a public performance at Canada Water Theatre on 19th June. In keeping with our values of making theatre as accessible as possible, tickets are free.  Click here for more details and to get your ticket now! 

Written by Executive Director and Co-CEO, Lucy Bradshaw

You may also like to read: ‘Creative ageing in sheltered housing: a neglected issue?’ by Lucy Bradshaw. Featured in the Baring Foundation’s publication