Introducing The Good Companions

By Pam Schweitzer

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Introducing The Good Companions' page

After a decade of making professional verbatim theatre productions, I began to make new theatre work with older people themselves as performers. Inspiration came from Freies Werkstatt Theater in Cologne, Germany, where this work was already underway. A group of older people who had not previously had experience of performing were pooling their personal stories and creating new theatre shows. With professional direction from Dieter Scholz and Ingrid Berzau, professional actor/directors from Cologne, their stories were woven into an artistically satisfying whole and were finding large and enthusiastic audiences of all ages. 

Ingrid and Dieter came to London in 1992 and helped me launch a similar programme at Age Exchange, and this led to a new kind of collaboration with the older people. They had previously been the source of the stories, but now they would also be the purveyors of their own experience. I did not see this as an alternative to professional reminiscence theatre, which continued in parallel, but rather as an exciting new approach which gave the older people more control over their own material and a chance to perform for the very first time. The special qualities which emerged from working in this way were a sense of the authenticity of their narration, rooted as it was in direct experience, and a sense in the audience of being privileged listeners to a shaped and structured live and lively reminiscence session. For 12 years the older people worked together under the name ‘The Good Companions’, which indeed they were at a personal level, and in that time 12 original shows were developed.

This page was added by Pam Schweitzer on 02/05/2013.