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Pinchbeck, M., Mangan, M., 2019.

Somewhere between remembering and forgetting: Working across generations on The Middle

Output Type:Journal article
Publication:Performance Research
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
Volume/Issue:24 (3)
Pagination:pp. 122-131

Inspired by Hamlet, The Middle (2013) is a one-man show devised for a theatre foyer - a liminal space between the outside and the inside, the real world and the theatre. Hamlet is a character caught in a limbo between ?To be or not to be? and by casting my father, Tony Pinchbeck, to play the title role, I sought to explore time passing, staging ageing and the relationship between father and son. My father studied Hamlet when he was at school so he is stuck in the middle between the fading memory of reading that play 50 years ago and reading it now. He is trying to remember what it was like to be Hamlet while I continue my struggle to stay in the wings. For this article, I reflect on the complex dramaturgical process of working with my father to revisit his performative memories. The dramaturg?s job is to look for and after something that is not yet found. As Williams tells Turner and Behrndt, ?you don?t really know what is being sought?.1 As such, the dramaturg is in a limbo, or in the middle, between finding and looking, knowing and not knowing. For The Middle (2013), I spent time playing with the material I wanted to use physically: a table, a chair, 40 metres of bubble wrap. I found I could create interesting images with this material that could speak about the themes of liminality, ageing, stasis and mortality and the archiving of memory. The older we get, and the longer the show toured, between 2013 and 2016, the more the notion of father and son resonated. A retired solicitor, my father is 75 this year, and as he grew older and the show toured for three years, his memory of playing Hamlet faded so the text he spoke was always further from events it described. As Matthew Goulish writes, ?Some words speak of events, other words, events make us speak?. These were the words my Dad?s memories made us speak. For this article, I reflect on concepts of memory, time passing and ageing with Professor Mick Mangan, who explores these themes in his publication Staging Ageing (2013). The article weaves together my dramaturgical experience of making the performance with my father, and Mick?s experience of watching it through the lens of his research, and touches upon recent casting choices in order to explore issues of age and ageing and reminiscence theatre.