Sonja's inspiring storytelling
I'm blaming all the excitement of the Royal wedding for being a day late introducing you to this week's wonderful Heydayer. I met Sonja, 73, at a fascinating symposium on the art of creative ageing which was part of the fantastic (B)old festival at the Southbank in London. Like me she was hugely energised by the talks from artists and organisations around the world about how the arts can have a positive impact on older lives. I'll be doing a post on that later in the week, but for now, enjoy Sonja's inspirational story.
"I’m a playwright and as I was getting to be an older person I was very much aware that there were so many older professional actors for whom there was no work, or only some minor part playing somebody with Alzeheimers. So I thought, OK I’m going to pluck up my courage and create my second theatre company (my first was about human rights), Visible is about representing older people in a positive light, though on-stage work which I create specifically for older actors
I began by gathering together 13 older actors and thought, lets start with their stories. There was a Polish actress who had survived the Warsaw Ghetto. A story. We also had a Japanese actor who’s father had been in Nagasaki when the bomb was dropped. A story. An actor whose father was an officer in the Austrian Imperial Army and in the First World War he was captured and was in Siberia when the revolution broke out. A story.
The piece we created was '100 Years of History from 1914 to 2014' which the actors told through playing themselves at different ages. One English actress, who’d grown up in India during the time of the Raj, played herself at the age of 7 having a dress made and talking about the servants in her home. An American actor told the story of how he tried to get out of the war in Vietnam.
The other show is about love and sex in older age
What I want to achieve with the company is for it to have longevity and scale. I want to be able to continue to work with older professional actors, of which there are so many - it’s not just Helen Mirren! Britain has huge talent resources and experience in the acting profession. So I want to harness that, and to keep telling stories. The other show we’ve done so far was about love and sex in older age.
One of my other aims is to inspire younger people, by creating work that has depth but also lightness and dynamism; with older people being very physical on stage. I just want to try to be as inspirational as possible."
Storytelling lies at the heart of Sonja's marvellous work and is obviously a vital element of These Are The Heydays. The DJ Ken Bruce once said "everyone has a story. It's my job to find out what it is". What's your story?