Back in the day, well before people gathered around the television each night for news updates on the latest lockdowns, the wireless was the focus of family gatherings to stay informed and entertained.
The Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined has recreated those happier times with a diverse program of radio shows that are rich with authentically Australian stories by senior writers and performers from a range of backgrounds and experiences.
Producer of the Radio Plays and Revel in Radio Series, Rob Gebert says the festival has commissioned Peta Murray, a contemporary and high-profile writer in her early 70s, to create a radio version of Salt: A Play in Five Helpings. Salt explores the complex relationship between a mother and daughter amid the tension of a shared kitchen space.
‘The kitchen setting provided a great backdrop for a radio play,’ Rob says. ‘The sounds of cooking and utensils are like another performer, helping to bring the work to life.’
In a major coup, the festival includes Aboriginal artist Sandy Greenwood’s one-woman play Matriarch.
In a compelling and visceral performance depicting the hurt and grief experienced by four generations of her family at the hands of White Australia, Sandy describes ‘absorbing’ her mother’s pain before posing the question, ‘I don’t know when it started but when will it end?’. This play will deliver a gut punch to anyone who doubts the reality of the intergenerational trauma carried by many Aboriginal Australians.
Emotions will also be heightened by Lady in Waiting, a bittersweet story of how a woman and her partner travers the implications of a breast cancer diagnosis. The play, written by Melbourne’s Sandra Shotlander, is performed by actors Rosemary Johns and Brenda Palmer and includes poetry by Joan Eaton-Stubbings.
Seniors will be pleased to hear Lux Radio Theatre’s return to the festival with its rendition of an Australian classic, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.
‘We had a huge response to Lux Radio Theatre’s Agatha Christie plays last year,’ Rob says. ‘The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is an adaptation of an Australian murder mystery, written in the 1880s,’ Rob says. ‘In its day, it outsold Sherlock Holmes. I loved its references to well-known Melbourne landmarks, like Little Bourke Street, which was then a backstreet filled with brothels and ne’er-do-wells.’
The festival has provided a platform to showcase the talents of community artists, with members of the Melbourne City chapter of the University of the Third Age (U3A) writing and performing dialogues and monologues.
‘It’s wonderful that we have a number of older voices being reflected in the works,’ Rob says.
Listeners who prefer non-fiction entertainment have the choice of a four-episode documentary series on Australian music icons across a range of genres. Interviewed by Radio 88FM’s Ian Braybrook, the documentaries showcase musicians talking about their careers, interspersed with some of their performances. Featured performers include Marcia Jones, from Marcia and the Cookies, which was Australia’s top female singing group in the 60s. Marcia’s group toured overseas with Cliff Richard and the Shadows.
We’ll also hear from some of the aged care residents who generously participated in the Recognising Senior Victorians program. The program has seen 50 residents from aged care facilities throughout Victoria share tales that include all the drama, romance and comedy of lives well lived; from volunteering as a ‘spotter’ for enemy aircraft over Victoria during WWII, to migrating to Australia by ship via the Suez Canal and waking to the sound of lions roaring at Toronga Zoo; or living in a tent during the Depression. With refreshing candour, these amazing ‘ordinary’ Victorians opened up about loves won and lost, with many spawning legacies that include great, great, great grandchildren.
Alternatively, you can listen in the smooth voice of Golden Days Radio presenter Peter Thomas as he interviews Commissioner for Senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour, about the insights revealed in his recently released Aging Well in a Changing World report. The series of short and snappy interviews sees Commissioner Mansour discuss the eight key attributes that enable people to age well.
Fittingly, engaging with the festival will help seniors with at least a couple of those attributes, Rob says, namely maintaining connections and staying in touch.
Reviewed 19 May 2023