Why isn’t the National Theatre Touring to Old Peoples Homes?

Convener(s): Chris Gage

Participants: about 8 people, including representatives from Ladder to the Moon and spare tyre.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

The discussion ranged from the specifics of the question, through issues of age and ageism, intergenerational work, working with older actors, overvaluing of youth, and to the broader societal questions raised by an aging population.

We over value youth in society & newness. – longer return on investment. But what kind of a future are people seeing for themselves and what impact does this have on our actions?

Is the National the right kind of organization to be doing this work? Yes doing this thety would give profile, it works towards decomparmentalising society, de stigmatizes old people, care homes and dementia. 

Has the National thought about doing this. Perhaps it needs specialist organizations to go to them and say we can provide this for you, it will have significant benefits and leverage funding for you. 

Strong business case to be made for working with and for older people 

Theatre work can transcend the physical discrepancy of age – important to work and produce work which is not around age. Rather sharing our common humanity. – Particularly interegenerational practice, bringing to gether elders and teenagers.

This is part of a broader ideas about decompartmentalising society

Value the older artist.

Why the NT rather than their education department that should be doing this? Because it is the value we place on this audience, it should be standing up to criticism, it is also decompartmentalising. –Aditionally pushing the reviewers envelope of what is valuable & overcoming predudice. 

Age is an emerging theme across this event. 

A discussion about working with older actors: some point.

            We are all scared of what we don’t know.

            Don’t leave an actor in semi retirement for 20yrs, then pull them out and expect them to be at there best.

Use stratergies to help people cope (deal with the problem rather than blame it on age, justy as you would with any actor having difficulties)

If the line or movement isn’t being remembered then it is likely that the line or movement isn’t right.

There are going to be difficulties working with older actors, and there are going to be difficulties working with younger actors. 

There are a vast range of different types of people & therefore older people

Age is one of the last taboos.

Why asking this question about older people rather than other excluded groups? Because older people are ourselves in 30,40,50 yrs time. It asks a bigger question about our humanity and how we are in the world because it is asking a question about ourselves.

Care home TV sitcom – told it won’t sell, because its not sexy enough.

What is the old people’s home of the future?

Why don’t people go into old peoples?

            Predudice around age and dementia.

            A lot of care staff are undervalued in their role and as a result don’t create welcoming environments.

What about consultation to facilitate people being able to go into these environments? Yes – Older people are facilitating this training (Spare Tyre)

What can we do as theatre makers about this?

            Make high quality work. Partnerships between the specialists and the flag ship organisations.


Hamlets Dresser by Bob Smith


Long Island Blues by Blake Weldon