dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Stories from the other side of retirement
Following interviews collecting real-life stories, Birmingham-based Women and Theatre's Prime Time shines the spotlight on women of retirement age in this show made up of monologues. Three women in three different homes share their experiences, detailing their fears, hopes and realities around giving up work and supposedly putting their feet up.
There's Cassie in Maeve Clarke's Playing it Safe, a woman who has worked, saved and made all the sensible decisions for a comfortable retirement with her partner Dave. But life has dealt the couple a terrible blow with Dave suffering dementia and Cassie now facing retirement alone. Movingly performed by Linda Hargreaves, we see Cassie's dashed hopes but we also learn that she is refusing to be daunted, is moving out and going travelling, despite the resistance of her only son. Retirement may not be what she had hoped but she is determined to make the most of the time she has left.
In contrast, Vera, played by Souad Faress in Rochi Rampal's I'm All Right Jack, is lost. She has given up her job during a drunken holiday with girlfriends and is now unable to fill that void. As a woman who has dedicated her life to her office job but realised that she had reached an age where her colleagues no longer wanted her, she has yet to find another purpose. It's Friday night and she's awaiting the weekly telephone call from her friend Dee who is still working. And as she waits, bottle of wine on the go, Vera ponders the emptiness now stretched before her.
And in the final tale of the trio, Rachael Mainwaring's Time to Shine, we are introduced to Wendy whose Mondays are spent caring for her granddaughter. In-between chatting to the baby, Wendy, played by Women and Theatre artistic director Janice Connolly, is answering some email questions about her role volunteering at a local theatre. Through her monologue, we learn that Wendy's childhood dream was to act but her hopes were quashed by her father. Now in retirement, she has joined a ballet class, helps with backstage tours and is part of an amateur drama group which has finally seen her tread the boards.
Directed by Jo Gleave and premiered at Birmingham Rep's The Door, the 75-minute show has plenty of dry humour but there are also some hard-hitting messages about the invisibility of older women in the workplace, the pensions crisis forcing women to work to an older age and the tensions and expectations between these retired women and the rest of their families.
Such serious issues and their impact on older women are rarely the subject matter for a show but Women and Theatre are never ones to shy away from the grit that makes up our real lives. And there's certainly an appetite for it as the packed premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre's Door showed.
Prime Time is performed at The Door until October 26.