Riley Harter is the Education Co-ordinator/Head Tutor here at The Court Theatre, organising and running our education programmes alongside Programmes Manager, Rachel Sears. This month Riley was involved in the Senior Holiday Programme in collaboration with Dementia Canterbury; an experience which opened her eyes about the power of theatre to bridge generational gaps.
Earlier this month I had the joy and privilege to be involved in the Senior Holiday programme, which focused on verbatim theatre.
Verbatim theatre is a style of performance where you use the words of a real person to create your script and character. We collaborated with Dementia Canterbury for this project, with our students interviewing some of their wonderful clients to create a piece of theatre from their stories. The result was simply magical.
It was such a treat to see the younger generation interacting with the older generation and being genuinely interested in their stories and the lives they had led.
From here, our students had four days to decide which stories they wanted to tell; how they wanted to stage them and to create their own scripts. The participants were incredibly proactive and had a strong vision for what they were wanting to create for their final performance on Friday.
We invited Dementia Canterbury to watch the performance, with our five interviewees seeing their own stories performed back to them – a truly magical experience.
It was such a great reminder of the old cliché that we all have a story to tell. There really is nothing more truthful than this kind of a performance in which everything comes from real life experience. It was a wonderful challenge for the holiday programme students and one which they met with a strong sense of maturity. They put in a lot of hard work to do justice to the source material, crafting a fantastic performance which lived up to the original stories themselves.
For me, being able to sit in on an interview and hear some amazing memories first-hand, it was an incredibly humbling experience which furthered my understanding of dementia.
Too often there is a generation gap or prejudice of age which isn’t bridged. Being involved in this project truly showed me how much we all, as humans, have to offer each other - no matter our age or background.
Theatre really is the perfect medium to connect us all.