Sutton House have a regular elders group who meet every Friday for a couple of hours. Sometimes they chat and have coffee, sometimes guest speakers come in, sometimes activities are laid on. The aim from the Trust's point of view is to enable them feel that the house belongs to them and that they are welcome at any time. Some of the most active take a full role in Sutton's maintenance and restoration.
Today Drama St Mary's student Sophie ran the session introducing the group firstly to The Canterbury Tales and then leading them out into the courtyard to watch the four pub stories. It was a brilliant bit of programming - working both as a taster for the main show in the evening and giving our students a chance to run through the stories ready for tomorrow's marathon back in Ham.
Feedback was immediate and vocal. Summoners were booed, cuckolds were ridiculed, the virtuous cheered and the ruder the joke, the louder the laughter. This is how theatre can be, a direct conversation between stage and audience. The actors rolling with the interventions, whilst skillfully driving the story forward. Confident, playful and generous.
At times during our rehearsals the cast have, once they've negotiated the language, been startled at just how explicit Chaucer can be and we've asked lots of nervous questions about how families, children and seniors might deal with it. For the seniors - we needn't have worried. At the end I asked Ann, who was wiping the tears from her eyes, whether she'd found it too rude.
'Not rude enough!' she said 'you wasn't holding back on our account was you?'
We broke for an hour and retreated to a Turkish restaurant by the station for a boisterous meal before coming back to re set for the show proper.
Happy now and in the groove the company played beautifully. The transitions were smooth and the audience seemed to really enjoy themselves. Not a pork pie left in the house.