What drew you to work on this production?
I wanted to re-visit Alan Bennett in his 80th year, as a reminder that the issues raised in his work – such as care of the elderly; loneliness and isolation; family breakdown and abuse and exploitation –still blight our daily news.
What is it about Alan Bennett’s monologues and characters that you love?
What I love about Alan Bennett is that in an everyday, matter-of-fact way he makes normal people critical, relevant and funny. For example, the contrast in A Cream Cracker Under the Settee – the tragedy and humour in Doris’ situation, that she truly believes her care worker can be held accountable for the cream cracker. That the consequences of the cream cracker will make up for the abuse and neglect.
Similarly with A Chip in the Sugar, Graham’s story is that of a middle-aged gay man living at home with an elderly mum. His story is not told, it is lost in the telling of the mother’s Alzheimer’s. His isolation and loneliness is touched on brilliantly, but fleetingly.
How relevant are the issues that Alan Bennett raises to today’s world (i.e. care of the elderly)?
This is what’s brilliant about Alan Bennett. 30 years ago issues that were hidden behind curtains and closed doors; across avenues and roads, up and down middle Britain, were untold stories. Thankfully today there is an end to that silence, a growing awareness of elderly care; loneliness and isolation. There may be less stigma surrounding these topics but there is still much social change needed.
What does Alan Bennett tell us about our relationship to other people?
Despite these little sad stories of broken relationships, they are a reminder that we need more care, love and respect for the elderly and young.
Have you got a favourite family anecdote that’s similar to Alan Bennett’s view of everyday life?
My mum was a care worker for 20 years, and one of her favourite stories from this period of her life was “Lovely Peas”.
Sadly, not the Norma and John Major Spitting Image of family mealtimes; but a woman who couldn’t remember what she was having for dinner each night. Night after night, she would thank my mum for dinner and comment “These peas are lovely hen”, without any recollection that this was a daily occurrence. It is stories like these that highlight just how tragic living with Alzheimer’s is.