A daring contemporary audio theatre work exploring older people’s reflections on ageing and the transition into supported care will feature in the upcoming Melbourne experimental arts festival, Next Wave in May.
The artwork titled HOME by emerging artist Brienna Macnish, 25, invites members of the public to step inside the home and private life of Marian, a 70-year-old grandmother who lives alone in Kensington in Melbourne’s northwest following the death of her husband.
Arriving at the front door with a key to the stranger’s home, the audience is taken on a very personal journey through a lifetime of possessions and memories while listening to an intimate audio story as told by Marian as she reflects on her life’s story and contemplates her future.
Ms Macnish said the work aims to begin a conversation about the experience of ageing in contemporary Australia and the divergent feelings of loss, isolation, uncertainty and optimism.
She said she was inspired to develop the creative project after her grandparents’ own experience of leaving their home and moving into residential aged care.
“For me, there was a real lack of conversation and discussion within my family about what it meant to have left their house behind – what it meant for us to be packing up all of their possessions and putting them into storage,” she said.
“And I felt really strongly that this lack of conversation was also reflected more broadly in the rest of society about the importance of this act of moving out of your home.”
As part of the project, Macnish spent 18 months interviewing a dozen older Australians about their relationship to their home and their thoughts and plans for the future.
Some of the powerful sentiments repeated throughout the interviews are encapsulated in cross stitch artworks produced by Macnish and Marian, and include quotes such as “our home became a burden”, “carry me out in a box” or “I thought I’d go first”.
Ms Macnish said she hopes the artwork will create a space not only for personal reflection and discussion, but also empathy.
Through this unique audio theatre experience, the audience is asked to step inside the lives of others and to contemplate their stories.
“I’m really interested in creating spaces to experience empathy in my work and I’m hoping that’s what this work will do,” said Ms Macnish.
The work also explores ideas of physical space and isolation and being the last one living in the family home.
“I began searching for stories about the people left behind, people living alone in houses that once sheltered families. What does it mean for older people to reconsider their future and whether they will be able to maintain their homes and their independence?” she said.
By setting the unconventional theatre experience inside a house, Macnish said the piece will also examine the “stories we tell through the spaces we make our own.”
The project was commissioned by the Next Wave Festival as part of their kickstart program and runs from May 1-11.
For more information or tickets see www.stepintomyhome.com or call Next Wave Festival on (03) 9329 9422.