June 2, 2023 Edge

Q&A: Barbara

Stockport artist Mark Croasdale brings their immersive, warm and joyful theatre show ‘Barbara’ to The Edge, Chorlton, on the 23rd & 24th of June. Featuring performances, songs around the piano, and crumpets, the show is inspired by Mark’s own relationship with their grandmother and what it means to care for someone you love when they lose their way.

Hi Mark, can you tell us what (and who) Barbara is?

Well of course I can and thank you for asking (as my Barbara might say). ‘Barbara’ the theatrical experience is an evening of candlelight, crumpets, and crooning, which means audiences are treated to a gay old time as hosts Barbara & Bernard serenade you. But there’s more! Throughout the evening, guests learn how to have a polite conversation, can join in on a sing-a-long, and experience a story that lifts the lid on what it means to care for someone you love when they lose their way. As you might have guessed Barbara is loosely based on my real-life Grandma Barbara; a quintessential British lady who is a stickler for correct etiquette and polite conversation.

‘Barbara’ explores themes of dementia and caring for people with dementia – should we bring our handkerchiefs?

Handkerchiefs will be made available, but from past experience, they are just as likely to be used for laughter as tears. The work does discuss dementia and the concept of care, how we care for ourselves and for others, but it’s certainly not a downer. Conditions like dementia have a cloud of fear surrounding them and often the preconceptions we have are actually the worst part. Barbara & Bernard share with their guests an opportunity to reframe how we discuss these conditions, and hopefully, guests are invigorated to talk more about how we can look after each other, whatever we have going on in our lives.

You mentioned ‘Barbara’ is inspired by your own relationship with your grandmother. Can you tell us why this show is so important to you?

My relationship with my British Grandma was quintessentially cordial, very prim and proper. There was a lot of love between us, and it was shown with buttered crumpets, singalongs, and warm Vimto cordial. This was vastly different from my Mediterranean grandma where we fed the chickens at 4 in the morning and spent much of our time hugging. When Barbara began to show signs of dementia our relationship changed and it was a strange situation to navigate. This show lifts the lid on that often confusing and scary situation and encourages us to approach these conversations around care with joy and most importantly establishes that. Although it can feel like it, we are not alone.

Music plays a big part in the show – why is that and what should we expect?

Music is at the heart of the show both because it was a passion of Barbara’s, but also because it’s an incredible creative tool for people living with and supporting those with dementia conditions. Our Musical Director (and performer as ‘Bernard’ in the show) Tom Guest, has collated a variety of songs that are presented as a banquet, sweeping audiences on a journey right from the hors d’oeuvre through to the cheese board. We’ve also been collating responses from the general public around the theme of care and Tom will premiere a newly composed song featuring lyrics from the public. Now, audiences are encouraged to sing along, but we’re not worried about anything as silly as singing in tune, as Barbara would say “the louder you sing, the more joy you’ll bring”. The point is that we’re all in a space eating crumpets, using our voices for crooning and conversations, and what a wonderful way to bring everyone together.

You’re also planning to experiment with some pop-up public taster sessions of Barbara in Chorlton – that sounds exciting! Can you tell us more?

Absolutely! Barbara and her friends Babs & Bea will be out on the streets of Chorlton on 15th June, setting up a cozy space for a spot of conversation and music. If you pop along the ladies will take care of you, helping you escape the huddle and bustle of modern society for five or ten minutes. Expect frolics into correct etiquette, quiz experiences where you can beat out the competition and a few gentle sweet serenades. The ladies will be performing a spot market research, helping us to have some conversations about care, and if you’re happy to share then your suggestions may make it into Bernard’s latest musical endeavor. Do come along and let the ladies take care of you x

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songs that are presented as a banquet, sweeping audiences on a journey right from the hors

d’oeuvre through to the cheese board. We’ve also been collating responses from the general public

around the theme of care and Tom will premiere a newly composed song featuring lyrics from the

public.

Now, audiences are encouraged to singalong, but we’re not worried about anything as silly as

singing in tune, as Barbara would say “the louder you sing, the more joy you’ll bring”. The point is

that we’re all in a space eating crumpets, using our voices for crooning and conversations, and what

a wonderful way to bring everyone together.

5.

You’re also planning to experiment with some pop-up public taster sessions of

Barbara in Chorlton – that sounds exciting! Can you tell us more?

Absolutely! Barbara and her friends Babs & Bea will be out on the streets of Chorlton on 15th June,

setting up a cozy space for a spot of conversation and music.

If you pop along the ladies will take care of you, helping you escape the huddle and bustle of modern

society for five or ten minutes. Expect frolics into correct etiquette, quiz experiences where you can

beat out the competition and a few gentle sweet serenades. The ladies will be performing a spot

market research, helping us to have some conversations about care, and if you’re happy to share

then your suggestions may make it into Bernard’s latest musical endeavor. Do come along and let

the ladies take care of you x

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