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Over-50s acting troupe from Immediate Theatre captivates kids at Hackney primary schools

PUBLISHED: 15:00 05 August 2019

Hungry dragon played by Sharon Aspess.

Hungry dragon played by Sharon Aspess.

Lola Carter

An over-50s acting group toured Hackney primary schools this summer with a thought-provoking and fun rendition of George and the Dragon.

George fights the dragon in the sequel to Immediate Theatre's George and the Dragon show. Picture: Lola CarterGeorge fights the dragon in the sequel to Immediate Theatre's George and the Dragon show. Picture: Lola Carter

The group from Immediate Theatre got kids in Years 3 and 4 dancing, roaring and voting on whether or not Fafner the Dragon - played by Sharon Aspess - should live or die.

The retired and semi-retired actors told the Gazette how much they loved performing to kids and how acting has got them out of their comfort zones, meeting new people and staying active.

Sharon said: "I didn't take early retirement just to sit at home and watch TV. I wanted to do something and stimulate my brain and this is a great way of doing it."

During the players' school tour, they asked young viewers their ideas for a sequel.

Cast of Immediate theatre's George and the Dragon answer school kids questions. Picture: Gbenga OlopadeCast of Immediate theatre's George and the Dragon answer school kids questions. Picture: Gbenga Olopade

And that play was performed at Homerton's Wally Foster Centre last month.

It was put together over just a few days during the heatwave.

The play, written by Penny Cliff with help from the actors, dealt with themes of democracy, forgiveness, female empowerment and environmentalism.

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There was even an alternate ending.

Steve Latner, who played the judge, believes in the power of theatre to transform lives.

"I grew up in Hackney on quite a rough estate," he said, "and I joined a youth theatre at Hoxton Hall.

"It totally changed the direction of my life.

Benthal Primary School kids captivated by the queen and dragon played by Heather Qualtrough and Sharon Aspess. Picture: Gbenga OlopadeBenthal Primary School kids captivated by the queen and dragon played by Heather Qualtrough and Sharon Aspess. Picture: Gbenga Olopade

"If somebody does see a different pathway it's so valuable and [theatre] like this does that."

The group thinks more activities should be available for people their age as well as young people.

Actor Alice McKenna said: "People think that when you're 60 and retired you're going to stay at home and do nothing. "They say to me: 'Why are you doing that at your age?'"

Janet Evans relished playing Cleolinda.

The sequel to the production featured Fafner the dragon's baby Dragonette. Picture: Lola CarterThe sequel to the production featured Fafner the dragon's baby Dragonette. Picture: Lola Carter

She told the Gazette: "It's been a lovely experience to be a 74-year-old princess."

Originally the acting troupe performed to older people at care homes, lunch groups and hospices and was formed through a partnership between Immediate Theatre and Arcola Theatre in Dalston.

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