After the performance, sitting in the empty theatre I watch the packing of the set, the folding and careful placing of materials and objects into large black suitcases on wheels. I imagine them tomorrow walking through an anonymous airport concourse, perhaps two men and their elderly relative and an extraordinary number of travelling bags.
But it’s the people, not the bags that are extraordinary. At 82 Carmen Mattos has just performed Casa das Fases new one woman show Yolanda Cala Boca at the International Women’s Theatre Festival at Odin Theatre in northern Denmark. It’s a show about ageing and loneliness, the story of a woman abandoned by those who claimed to love her: an exploration of the boundaries between re-invention and delusion:
‘There was once a mad old woman who lived with her loneliness. She enjoyed the circus and popcorn, now she longs for everything, even for herself’
In the front row of the audience sits a mesmerized line of Danish elders all members of a touring seniors theatre company from the Sønderland Day Centre, Holstebro. At the final curtain, they each struggle to their feet, some with enormous difficulty, but they must stand and embrace the artist. “Everyone carries so much loneliness within them”, reflects Kai Bredholt of Odin Teatret who works with the company. Here together and in rehearsal they are full of energy and laughter. But meet them casually in the street and you can see the loneliness”.
The writer Clare Allen has spoken of the enormous privilege of a voice, to step out of the shadows and be counted, of how the act of speaking out enables people to reveal themselves as individuals rather than categories.
That’s why this energy, this determination of the older audience members to struggle tall in their embrace with the artist, the acknowledgement of being recognised and understood by this shared act of theatre.