The Experience of Being
Playwright, Carol Moore, who has worked in the creative industries for 40 year as an actor, theatre director, filmmaker and drama maker was awarded a Major Individual Award worth £15,000, the highest honour bestowed by the Arts Council in December 2018. Carol will use the award to produce and premiere her new play ‘The Experience of Being’ which kicks off in the Grand Opera house on Wednesday 8 May 2019.
“It’s a bit of a surprise when you arrive at sixty and are suddenly told you are old. Not told formally; a letter doesn’t come in the post, but you know you have reached a watershed in your life because society has marked this moment as the beginning of a person’s decline. It is accepted as fact, as the norm. I felt I needed to challenge that myth by writing my one-woman play “The Experience of Being”.
I had never really considered the ageing process until I arrived at what we like to term the “significant birthday” of 60, because somehow it is supposed to signal the beginning of ‘fragility’ at this stage of our lives. That is blatantly not true. There is no stereotype of an older person, any more than there is of people in their 20’s or 30’s. It’s unthinkable to assume people of age are all alike yet ageism has crept into our psyche and into our vocabulary and we, (and I include myself here) we have normalised it, rather than challenging it. I used to go to a male hairdresser who addressed myself and every older woman in the salon as “young lady”. Was I supposed to be flattered when I’m clearly not young and most definitely, not a lady. Why are we not comfortable about having a conversation about ageing – about the challenges we face but also about the opportunities and freedom it offer?.
The central character Cathy unconsciously feels a sense of dwindling power but hasn’t articulated it until the day of her 60th birthday. She is suddenly aware of feeling invisible and comes to realise that it is not ageing itself that is so difficult but the discrimination that comes with it.
As a Major Individual Artist Award recipient, this project has been supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the National Lottery and I thank them for this unique opportunity to write and produce my first play. Many individual artists & companies have been key to the play’s development and a huge thank you goes to them for supporting me and being part of the journey. It also continues to be a wonderful privilege to be working with Patrick J. O’Reilly (Director), Conor Mitchell (Composer), Kevin Lawless (Saxophonist) & Malcolm Smith (Lighting Designer) as we continue to explore the style and shape of the finished work collaboratively. The Experience of Being premieres in the Baby Grand Theatre, Belfast on 8 -10th May, 2019, before going on tour. See www.goh.co.uk for details of the Belfast run and www.angrianantheatre.com for details of the tour. Northern dates will follow.
As part of the project I also worked with members of U3A Holywood Branch in a series of workshops exploring the theme of ageing. We laughed a lot and discovered there was plenty to write about regarding the challenges of ageing but also the societal myths about this stage of life.
In the third strand of my project, U3A members, residents of Balloo Care Home, Groomsport, AgeNI client users and other participants, all aged between 60+ and 95, were interviewed separately because I wanted to have a sense of how individuals each managed their own ageing. They are all unique; their health, mobility, independence and social life all reflecting their own life journey. But where their experiences do converge is that everyone interviewed still has a sense of anticipation about the future, of something to look forward to and a genuine contentment that comes with ‘being’ in the moment of each new day. I cannot thank them enough for their time and patience and the finished piece, titled “Stories of Age” has now been edited down to a 35 minutes audio installation - listen below.
The journey of this project has made me aware that we often don’t ask older family members to share their memories with us or record them until it is too late. All too often their experiences of work, travel, adventure, love and friendship are memories they have never shared because no-one has taken the time to ask them and why reminiscence is such a wonderful creative tool.
The project is a celebration of those experiences and of positive ageing and I am delighted that Baroness May Blood, a representative from AgeNI, along with a client user and myself will take part in a panel discussion on Wednesday 8th May after the performance and where “Stories of Age” will formally be launched.
In my sixties, I am very much enjoying my own experience of ‘being’ because you never know how long you have before the journey ends.