Arti: My name’s Arti. I directed Safe, and I’m also the Artistic Director of Spare Tyre.
Oh dear, the director’s chair! [Laughs]
I’m going to facilitate the discussion today, just asking questions and then we’ll see who in our group wants to respond to your question. Should we just go down the line and everyone can introduce themselves?
Sieska: I’m Sieska, I play the Director
Rick: Rick, the hack!
Vicky: Vicky, Councillor Roberts
Linda: Linda, the Pilot
Fay: Fay, Health and Safety
John: Joe, number two Artiste
Cordelia: Bobbi, number three Artiste
David: Joyce Prendergast, Care Assistant, aka David Munns
Alma: I’m Alma and I’m the Health and Safety Tsar
Arti: So there you go, that’s the gang. Do you have any questions for us?
Audience member: Hi I’m Kate; I was interested in the decision to put the film at the end, and seeing people as themselves rather than in character. I just wondered what the thinking was behind that choice.
Arti: Shall I answer that? Well it was exactly for that reason, to show them as they are. Because we don’t see people as themselves very often. You register people, as perhaps two-dimensionally, or you have a stereotype in your head of older people. So I just wanted to show them, and different sides of them as well through that.
David: Also I should tell you that Joyce isn’t all she seems either. There is something going on behind her cheery
nature and her serving tea, there is in fact a lot going on. I’ve written about it.
Arti: That’s the backstory for your character. There’s a whole lot that David has done as a back-story for his character. Any other questions?
Audience member: Could you talk a bit about the rehearsal process, and how it broke down session by session?
Arti: That was to talk about the rehearsal process and how it was broken down. Well is there someone who - do you guys want to kick it off, how did it feel, the rehearsal process?
Linda: I really liked the first four rehearsals, because we did a lot of trust work and movement and mirroring each other, and getting to work as an ensemble. We did some improvisation, which I really liked, and then we started to work more intensively, as we got nearer the show.
Arti: Actually on the script then.
Linda: Actually on the script.
Cordelia: I found the beginning very freeing, as it was a way of getting to know everyone that was different from normal. And then it became more serious as we came to work on the script.
Alma: The brainstorming of how we wanted the play to develop, etcetera, was really very good, it was very different from when we did it from the start, so it was very good.
Arti: Could you just expand on that a little bit? So we did this show, we were commissioned to do this show, I think 2008, that’s when we did it. So we’ve just revived it to launch our 40th year basically, that’s why we’re redoing it. Do you have any thoughts about what was different?
Alma: Well I think it’s the exploration of what our expectations were, and the difference that it would make between what we done before and now.
Fay: Actually I think it was a bit different from the last time we done it. Because bits are put there, bits are put here, but everybody was brilliant, we had a great time. We worked hard.
Vicky: One of the big differences about the production is that it’s about women pilots. We are sort of exploring those women who actually went relatively unrecognised who were flying their planes all over Britain, within Britain, they didn’t go on bombing raids. They were working, they were Red Cross, they were mechanics, and its time to celebrate them. Some of whom have only recently died. So they lived a long life without having been noticed.
Fay: And after the war, nobody really mentioned at all.
Vicky: No, nobody mentioned them at all! And they themselves never bigged themselves up. They never spoke very much about it. They were very modest people. So that’s a big change in the production.
Arti: I suppose it came through in the production because when we started the process, we’ve been working with a lot of artists from our community groups. We put an offer out and said ‘who wants to be part of this’ and this is the company that came forward, or I would say some of the company that came forward. And in its original form actually, six months ago, there were more female performers. And that’s why when we started researching a little bit further; we came across the women pilots. The ones who were working during the Second World War. And we thought, well actually lets just do that. Lets just bring that story out, the hidden stories that we are kind of know for
working with and bringing to the fore. And that’s how that really developed. And I suppose, in answer to your question about the story at the end, that for me is also a hidden story as well, that we don’t often get to see or hear, and that was a little bit of a reveal there as well. That’s really how the process happened. I think everyone’s kind of saying that they loved the kind of coming together and growing together as a group, really.
Audience member: Does anyone have any resonance with the subject of this idea of risk in your personal life?
Arti: So I’m just going to repeat for a few of our cast. Does anyone have anyone have any resonance with the themes
of the show? Like the risk or the Health and Safety?
Rick: You really shouldn’t get them started on this. [Audience laughs] How long have we got?
Arti: Did you want to say something David?
David: Well I feel that, there’s also the thing of not being listened to. That is because people who are in charge don’t always listen to the people they’re caring for. They don’t always listen. And it could be a two way street. Sometimes there are people who don’t listen, but then, human ignorance can be quite universal.Linda: But then also I think, if you’re over a certain age, you’re written off. And you’ve got to be cared for and protected. And you know, we’re all different ages, and we don’t need to be cared for and protected. Unless we become really disabled, mentally or physically. But we have a lot of years of enjoying ourselves, and acting and singing and dancing
Alma: I still work, and I’m retired – semi-retired, and I’m in the caring sector. And it’s all about risk assessments, and I do risk assessments, so it just hit me. And the person that I sort of base it on is an Infection Control Officer who’s always running behind you and this ‘risk assessment, risk assessment!’ And I do the audits for clotting assessments and bleeding assessments, and as soon as they see me, they say ‘oh God, what have we done now!’ That’s the first thing. So I know about it.
Arti: John there’s a little story that you told us earlier today that you
wanted to share.
John: The one about real life infringing upon…
John: On Wednesdays I do a joint project with students from the St Martin’s School of Art. And we were in some community gardens, and we were being split up to take some paper and charcoal and some drawings. And the tutor said: ‘Would you like teas and coffees?’ And one woman said: ‘Well, are we going to be drawing?’ And the tutor said:
‘yes!’ She said: ‘I can’t draw and drink tea at the same time!’ [Audience laughs]
Arti: Straight out of the play!
David: Yes indeed.
Arti: There were a couple of more hands going up in the background. Audience member: The lady asked exactly the same question I was going to ask!
Arti: Right. So it was about the resonance. Anyone has any resonance with the theme or…
Alma: Well I just finished a project for Women of the World and we use umbrellas as pods, so you can come and you talk quietly. And the first thing she said was ‘be careful of the umbrellas, it’s a risk!’ And I didn’t tell her anything…She’s coming to this show tomorrow! [Audience laughs]
Cordelia: I think another resonance for me, is about us mostly being older people, and how invisible you can become when you get old. And it’s really nice to come together and say we’re here, we do exist, and can still function, and we can do something together.
Fay: I don’t get that; I don’t find it like that. I mean I’m 80, and I find people are pretty good with me, so it doesn’t always work for everybody.
Arti: I suppose, maybe we’re talking about having a platform for older people to be able to perform in this way,
and to voice...
Rick: I noticed something this week; I was very kindly given some shower gel by one of the cast. I don’t know if they were being - if they were trying to tell me something. But on it it said ‘do not get near your eyes with this shower gel’. Who knew! [Audience laughs] If soap got in your eyes it hurts, you know? So it’s that kind of Health and Safety that the play is satirising you know. It’s not saying that all Health and Safety is nonsense. But it’s just saying, look, let’s be sensible about things. Let’s use some common sense.
Audience member: I just found it really interesting to see in the plays, how you guys were getting frustrated, and then the Council was like, this is my job. This is my job. So it shows the limitations, and the Council would rather keep you safe and buckle you up than taking the risk that you would get hurt by a poking umbrella. I just found it really interesting to see. Because there is another side for people who are working in the care that they just need to do the job. And I’m guessing there’s a lot of back and forth frustration for everybody.
David: All they see is – they only see what they want to see. But then that’s true of everybody. I mean, not everybody sees the invisible gorilla! [Audience laughs] You should read that. Actually you should read that
book it’s very fascinating. It’s by Dan Simons and someone else. I can’t remember the name of the other author. But Dan Simons is one of the authors of that book. It’s based on a rather interesting psychological experiment. It’s called the invisible gorilla experiment. And it’s the experiment in cognition, and how we see things. We only see what we want to see. And I should know. Well, I don’t want to dominate the conversation. But I might also point out that, as well as being an actor and writer, I also happen to be a magician. And I really am a magician.
Linda: He really is a magician!
Fay: He really is!
Audience Member: What’s the next project?
Several cast members: …Well! [Everyone laughs]
Linda: I think that would be telling. I think you’ll have to wait and see.
Vicky: We have a very, very interesting project...
Linda: Which is very local
Vicky: Very local
Linda: And very true
Vicky: And very true. Really happened.
Vicky: Really, really happened.
Linda: It’s a mystery.
Arti: There are several projects in the pipeline. For us as a company, as Spare Tyre, there are several projects in the pipeline. We’re also working with, I think there are some members of Kingston University sitting up there, and we’re doing a project with them at the moment. We’ve taken all the recordings that we had from – we were doing a project in Roehampton, and we gathered a lot of oral history. And they are actually turning that into a live performance for us. Using that recorded history and stories. We’re working within a school - working them to produce instruments out of recycled materials and to create a band. In the Autumn we’re going to be taking out the garden again, which is our work that we’re doing with people living with dementia, and with carers. And then we’ve
got a whole series of things happening as part of the birthday celebrations - projects that will start being kicked
off and what Vicky and Linda are referring to is one of those projects, tentatively called Invisible Women at the moment. Which is what we’ll work around as well. So we’ll be themeing around the themes that we usually have been working around for the last 40 years. Mainly around women, adults with learning disabilities, and older people. And women who’ve experienced violence. So there’ll be projects around those lines that we’re doing.
David: Also - coming soon: our circus cabaret!
Arti: Okay there’s another project! [Audience laughs] That’s to do with what we’re calling our artist-led projects. So artists who’ve been working with us over the last decade - whether they’ve come to us as placements, or as volunteers, or are part of our regular groups, or are part of our regular groups - they’re developing their own individual projects. So we’re actually producing some of those as well over the next couple of years. So just a few of that.
Audience member: Are you based at the Albany in Deptford?
Arti: The offices are based in the Albany but we kind of move around. Our work takes us in several boroughs around London, and up and down the country as well, around UK.
Audience member: I’ve got a question for Vicky. Are you fluent in Icelandic?
Vicky: Unfortunately not, no. [I’m] from the Yorkshire Dales. [Audience laughs]
Vicky: But I’ve been to Iceland several times.
Audience member: And you can sing the songs.
Vicky: Oh I can sing their songs yes. I used to go on drunken coach trips with lots of Icelanders. Picked up the songs. So, an honorary member of the Iceland fish bank.
Cordelia: The fish bank!?
Arti: I think on that note! [Applause] Thank you very much for coming, and making it such a wonderful first night for us. Thank you very much!
In March 2017, a group of Spare Tyre Artists performed Safe at the New Diorama Theatre.
In this Q & A, we hear their thoughts on the rehearsal process and the themes of the play.
Older people and people with learning disabilities reflect on safeguarding versus creativity, and feelings of invisibility.