the salon:collective’s latest project represents a fusion of two of our main concerns: supporting the careers of older women actors and developing new writing for theatre.
Salon director Lizzie Conrad Hughes has been lobbying for more substantial roles for women over 35, most recently through the So & So Arts Club’s Women in the Arts Forum supported by Juliet Stevenson.
Equity has been campaigning on the same issue for some years, last year supported by the BBC’s report Serving All Ages which discovered concern among broadcasters and the public about the lack of middle-aged and older women on television.
The Park Theatre offered a chance to test the water with its first writers’ development programme, Script Accelerator. the salon:collective became one of six companies preparing to present brand new work at the Park.
Alex Clarke, one of the writers the salon:collective has encountered through our own salon:lab programme, has revealed that she is now focusing on older women characters in her writing, so we were delighted when she agreed to work with us on a Script Accelerator submission.
Alex says: “Older women have always been more interesting to me. They have more to say and how they say it is more interesting because they’re more complex. I like writing about generational patterns and women will more often pull these out because they are more likely to be responsible for raising children.
“I’ve never explored these issues as a feminist activist, although I do a lot of feminist activist work: they are simply more interesting to me.”
Alex Clarke’s new work in progress, My Name is Hunger, explores the decline and fall of Eileen, whose glory days as an actress seem both close and far away as she battles with dementia and chivvies her timid neighbour Helen into grasping life with both hands. Joy, sorrow, a parade of husbands and a smattering of the Andrews Sisters are part of the picture. But what else is hidden in the depths of Eileen’s memory box?
The piece offers two excellent roles for older women which, what’s more, were ideal casting for Lizzie and Jean. See the results in Script Accelerator at the Park200, the main house in the new Park Theatre, as part of a programme of new writing.