The Paisley Suite

Directed by Mary McLuskey & Designed by Kenny Miller

A series of six new monologues by Scottish writers exploring the lives and experiences of people in care and care settings with a strong accent on mental health, wellbeing and creative ageing. To be produced/recorded in Spring 2021.

The Monologues

  1. Teas & Tucks by Alan Bissett
  2. Lovely Peas by Lisa Nicol
  3. Mr Connolly’s Last Vegas by Alan Bissett
  4. A Tale of Two Sisters by Zoe Strachan & Louise Welsh
  5. The Registrar’s Last Entry by Jack Dickson
  6. The Best Laid Plans by Oladipo Agboluaje

OUTLINES

Teas & Tucks by Alan Bissett
An experienced care worker spills the beans.

Ella is approaching that difficult time in her life, mid 50s and pondering early retirement. However, her life as a care worker sees her bound hand and foot to the care of some of the most vulnerable people in her community. She is single, overweight, works mainly nights and lives on takeaway food. Much as she loves her job, some of her clients are a nightmare. She always has a handy bottle of eye drops for those difficult clients. She’s not had much luck, been attacked by rabid dogs, had one or two falls in the snow and ice and just had the most awful diagnosis. In the final analysis, Ella decides it is time to wrestle with some of her life’s demons and spill the beans.

Lovely Peas by Lisa Nicol
A misremembered memoir.

Edna has been stuck at home for the last ten years caring for her dying husband Jim. Now that he is gone, she too has gone into a bit of decline. Whilst the lovely care worker pops in everyday to make her tea she cannot for the life of her remember her name. However always a cheery coper, Edna relishes that tea every night remarking on the ‘lovely peas’, the same lovely peas she has with every meal. Her memories of Jim are not so dim and here she recounts their life together, the humour, the sadness, their grown-up family long gone and uncaring who don’t visit.

Mr Connolly’s Last Vegas by Alan Bissett
An old man’s unfulfilled ambition.
Wheelchair-bound Mr Connolly hankers to return to Las Vegas where he visited regularly in his years as a travelling salesman. Surrounded by a sea of golden trinkets and tacky paraphernalia, he is convinced he’s sitting on a goldmine. An inveterate gambler, Mr Connolly recounts the many tales of love and loss on the highway to fame and fortune. Sadly, he won’t ever revisit Vegas since his iron lung wouldn’t be suitable for travel and his mass collection of cigarette coupons are now invalid.

A Tale of Two Sisters by Zoe Strachan & Louise Welsh
Or Whatever has happened to Sister Sarah.

Stuck in her top floor high flat Josephine, a former thread mill worker, is raging because her care worker is late, her poor sister Sarah has collapsed on the hallway floor just out of sight, and the leccy has gone off. Convinced it’s the fuel strike of 1974 she is insistent that the care worker get down to Lyon’s coal shop for a bag of grade one smokeless. Sadly, it’s not just the coal shop that gone it’s the manner of her sisters’ untimely demise that reveals the terrible truth about these troubled siblings.

The Registrar’s Last Entry by Jack Dickson
A final fall from grace for this once fine gent.

Mr Fleming lives alone in a grand Victorian house in Mansionhouse Terrace surrounded by his parent’s collection of grandfather clocks and priceless antiques. Years of dust, detritus and decay have put paid to the old range in his ancient kitchen and he can cook no more. Community meals come in everyday but on this day, Mr Fleming is nowhere to be seen. Fiercely independent he’s popped out in a taxi to Marks to get some quality nosh. Never mind the care workers almost breaking down the door out of sheer worry. After a long career as Registrar of Renfrewshire, he can tell many a tale of the odd cases he’s had to register. But it’s his final entry that reveals his frailty as he’s found face down in the jungle of his back garden amongst all the community meals he’s repeatedly thrown out to the birds.

The Best Laid Plans by Oladipo Agboluaje
The final analysis for this feisty care worker.

The meticulous Sean (an anglicization of his Nigerian name Seun) is a 55 year-old care worker contemplating retirement after a 20-year career. His wife has left him to return to Nigeria, and his children have flown the coop. He has bought a plane ticket to Nigeria to try and win his wife back. He has just finished paying for his flat on a council estate after years of scrupulous saving. Soon after, the council announces the estate is to be marked for demolition. Because of the uncertainty this causes he revises his retirement plans but is struck down by the coronavirus. The symptoms are made worse because he is diabetic. On his hospital bed, his plans in disarray, Sean worries if he will survive the virus, and if he does, what world he will return to.

Rationale

Focus: age / elderly / creative ageing / care and care settings / loneliness /isolation / health and well-being / relationships.

Inspired by research undertaken during the Paisley 2021 bid by Steven Thomson. Outspoken Arts’ Creative Director recorded stories from retired and former care workers in Paisley, which created the premise of The Paisley Suite. The stories shared referenced to people living with dementia, in wheelchairs or the bedridden, some formerly with illustrious careers and interesting lives. Through talking to volunteers and elderly people at the Disability Resource Centre and ROAR Connections (Reaching Older Adults Across Renfrewshire) we met former care workers whose experiences were sharp and observed. In meetings with the writers identified we have explored the idea of updating these stories and issues of people in care. In addition to these stories, the writers wish to focus on extended family relationships and the duty of care that some, but not all, manage with varying degrees. From the research meetings we established a central figure of the Care Worker; acting as a repository of the multiple stories and experiences. It was also recognised that they too have a life disrupted by care work, working unsociable hours, late at night, sometimes walking miles between clients in outdoor, inclement and wintry conditions and vulnerable to attack. The writers feel that it is important to tell their story too. We feel it is important to focus and give voice to people not as victims of care, but as somehow transgressing their lives. How they overcame difficulty, eking out an existence, sometimes through frugal means, but retaining dignity and self-worth in a world that had largely forgotten them or overlooked their contributions. The writers are challenged to find humour, pathos and underlying truths about the characters to give sense of humanity in the face of adversity.

Why
Our call to action came about after learning that there were up to 3,000 Renfrewshire residents living with dementia. By research undertaken during the Paisley 2021 bid we became acutely alert of the growing national problem in care in the community. News reports of older people being abused by care workers and much coverage on the strain on the system for those in residential care. The Creative Director then approached the Scottish writers to see if they would take up the stories for theatrical production. We aim to explore through theatre the difficult experiences of our consultees that mirror the contemporary care worker; the low pay, the hard work, the multiple client portfolio leading to reduced time for care and attention. This work has been made even more timely and relevant given the experience of older people in the current Corona virus pandemic.

Genre
Theatre / New Writing

When
Spring 2021

Supported by
Renfrewshire Council’s Culture, Heritage & Events Fund; Creative Scotland’s Open Fund for Sustaining Creativity.