Review: Once Upon A Lifetime: Going Back, Eastern Angles, John Mills Theatre, June 26
- Credit: Archant
The applause was loud and protracted at the end of Once Upon a Lifetime, premiered to an invited audience. This short play was based on the memories and experiences of some of Suffolk’s oldest and most vulnerable residents.
These memories were recorded in reminiscence workshops and interviews at specialist housing schemes and Care Homes across Suffolk by writer/director John Tavener and the Eastern Angles team. They were then skilfully woven into a single story depicting the ordinary but so exceptional lives of Sid and Hetty in the first decades of the twentieth century. Framed by their romantic relationship, the story covered happy and difficult times.
‘Reminiscence theatre’ turns the memories of older people into a piece of theatre. We all gain comfort and identity from our memories, and reminiscence work helps older people, some of whom may have difficulty remembering, to recall and value their life experiences. To then turn these memories into a dramatic piece, and perform it to those same, and other, older people, completes the therapeutic circle.
The audience’s enthusiastic reaction indicated that this was not just a worthwhile therapeutic activity, but a successful piece of drama. Francis Woolf convincingly played the role of Sid from handsome teenager, through husband, soldier, father and widow, to the ninety-four-year-old war veteran who intended to join the D-Day celebrations.
Rebecca Dickson-Black played Hetty, the young farmer’s daughter who married Sid, suffered his absence throughout the war with her small baby, and faced an early death. She also effectively played grown-up daughter Katey and other roles. Both were assisted by clever, simple stage management.
What made the audience cry and cheer so much at the end? Something to do with the dignity of ordinary life, I think, acted out on the stage with skill, passion and commitment.