“It’s a series of poems about Red Riding Hood at whatever age I am when I perform it,” say Gus Watcham of her one-woman play, Redder. “This year she’s 66. She’s looking back at her past. She’s looking for love. She’s trying to understand her childhood. It unravels some fairytale myths, and sort of rewrites them.”
I’ve interviewed Gus once before; that time about her involvement with Three Score Dance Company, a contemporary dance company for those aged 60+ which, she tells me, has reignited her creative impetus.
“There’s nothing like a deadline, I’d always been a great one for saying ‘I’ll do that later’. When you get older, there is no later. I realised, if I want to set something up, the time is now. It’s great to start a new project in later life. And a little bit of terror is so good for you. If you can get through that and show your work to somebody, it’s literally encouraging.”
Gus has been working with director Mark C. Hewitt, video artist Abigail Norris and performance artist Isobel Smith, and describes Redder as an ongoing reflection on aging and discovery. “In the piece, Red Riding Hood suddenly finds herself on the threshold of old age and I think this is what happens to us. We suddenly go, ‘Oh god. I’m here. Now what do I do?’ And in many ways nothing has changed at all, it’s all still going on in our minds. I really liked the idea of this little old lady marching along, still with her red riding hood on.”
Gus has been holding tea parties with older people, sharing stories and asking them to reflect on how they feel about aging, and how they perceived old people when they were young. “Of course, they all say that they feel no different at all. And those people that they used to think of as old? Well, they don’t seem so different when you get there yourself.”
“Redder is quite grown up and a bit rude in places. Red Riding Hood has a problem with body hair. Her mother, who was married to the Wood Cutter, found her life at home in the woods very boring and spent a lot of time hanging out with wolves. Enough said. Someone suggested that I might perform it in care homes, and I thought, ‘I can’t take this into a care home!’ But they said, ‘look, the people going into the care system now are the rock and roll generation. They don’t want to hear about Andy Pandy.’
“This whole thing started when I joined Three Score Dance. It’s been a knock-on process. I’m braver. I’m doing things that I’ve never done before. Things I always wished that I’d done. ‘It’s too late now’ is one of the most overused excuses. I’ve discovered that it really isn’t. I’m discovering stories of unstoppable older people all of the time.”
Redder is at Bom-Bane’s, Edward Street at 8pm on 28th of February.
Tickets from littleredder.wordpress.com
To order pre-show food contact bom-banes.com