‘Act Your Age’ – a new play at the Theatre Royal? No. I looked a little closer at the emailed newsletter from the theatre. It was a free-to-attend theatre workshop for older people. Well, that was me wasn’t t it? I was intrigued as I had never heard of anything like it and after a couple more read-throughs decided to fill in the on-line application form.

Attending the first session I had no idea what to expect. Just some vague thoughts about stage craft – as in make-up or lighting, or perhaps a group script reading session? Wrong again! This was to be my introduction to ‘Improvisation’.

The sessions are taken by Graham (an actual thespian!), and it is the most fun you can imagine! A completely diverse group of people – the only common thread – we are all past our 60th birthday, being asked to suspend reality and ‘react’ to given situations (improvise) in any way we chose. We quickly learned the only limit was our own ‘internal policeman’ (“you can’t do that!”) Oh, yes you can!  We could become whoever, or whatever, we chose; invest life in inanimate objects and run with any emotion or attitude. The only rules were; ‘what goes on in the group, stays in the group’, and acceptance and non-judgement of others. Absolutely necessary so that we could all feel safe shaking off our ‘grown-up’ personas for two hours and giving full reign to our inner child.

It is not as chaotic as I may have made it sound. Graham introduces various scenarios or games and invites our participation, guiding us through with small directions and insights. Important to say here – no-one is asked to do anything they feel uncomfortable with. We watch each other and make supportive comments.  Most of the time we spend laughing!

It gets better…besides becoming part of a group there is a feeling of entering into the Theatre Royal ‘family’ (a certain intimate atmosphere that only a small and friendly theatre like the Theatre Royal can engender). We are occasionally offered complimentary tickets to some of the productions and have been invited to attend a rehearsal (of The Wisdom Club). What a privilege that felt, introduced to all those involved in the production, invited on stage and able to chat and ask questions of the director!

We have even been invited to try out our new improvisation skills by auditioning for roles in the theatre’s 200th anniversary public immersion days.

Could I have imagined I would be doing any of this just under a year ago?

At a time of growing awareness of mental health issues, the importance of providing groups such as this cannot be overstated. With many thanks to the sponsors, working with the theatre (and the library in Bury who also ran a series of these workshops) who make this possible. It provides an opportunity to meet others, keep active – and have fun!

As you get older perhaps the one thing you should try and avoid is to ‘Act Your Age’.

Cally Buch

Act Your Age Workshop Attendee