When I grow up, I think I wouldn’t mind being Camilla Blunden, whose powerful new work All This Living comes to the Butterfly Club in February.
“Age comes to us all’ says her character Jay. Her show explores what it is to be an ‘older woman’ in today’s youth obsessed culture, and how society views old women- are they a nuisance? Do they cost too much? What do the youth of today know about their elders?
A writer and performer, Blunden has worked in Canberra for over 35 years as an actor, director, creator and mentor. Her urge to create this show, with an older woman centre stage, comes from a lack of opportunities and roles for female performers, especially older female performers.
“In my career in theatre there are not the same opportunities and it is difficult for older women. We fade away from screen and stage a lot more than men of the same age, there are not many worthwhile roles for us”, she said.
“For younger women too there are not enough central roles of dynamic and diverse characters, so let’s hope groups like ‘Women in Theatre and Screen’, which was started a few years ago, start to have an impact. We have been fighting these issues since the 70’s, if not before!”
When creating the show, the words ‘invisible’ and stereotyping came up a lot.
‘In this culture, there is not enough real representation of us as we really are, and what we can offer and still do’ she said.
“Look at the statistics: Many older people live independently and they save society a lot of money because of the volunteering work they do. Also, many continue working well past retirement age and are underestimated in what they have to offer” said Blunden.
She’s calling for more true representation of the mix of people in our society, as we are not all the same age, or all the same at all.
“Different cultures have different ideas about older people and we all need each other, remember young people, “Without us old women you wouldn’t be here!” she said
The show follows one woman, Jay, who is going through a bit of a crisis. She feels lost and invisible and is seeking answers. Her head is buzzing, she still does volunteer work and the desire for sex hasn’t stopped, and death should be talked about not ignored.
“I want the audience to come on her journey with her and understand her. She is one individual, there are so many more stories that could be told”, said Blunden on her character.
She said it’s hard to stay in touch with the changes that are occurring in methods, approaches and ways of creating work, and the relationship with audiences in theatre.
As an older woman, she finds it harder to find a bit of work here and there, as well as remaining interested and involved in the issues around the positioning of Arts in our society; to Blunden, these are crucial for humanity, even more so now.
“Creativity is one of the key things we need to cultivate in a world that is changing so fast”, she said, when discussing the challenges she faces in theatre and the arts.
“Are children and young people getting this in the education process? I want to continue to push myself to think outside the box and assist others to do that, using some of the knowledge I have gathered over the years”.
“Did growing up not become cool? I don’t know”, she remarked.
It’s hard to explain how she has seen our culture change, but she thinks the biggest things may be a growing materialism and selfishness and a want for more.
“Too much emphasis on the outside; the look being thrust at people from a very early age, that you have to have certain products or that you have to wear a certain brand. Resulting from the changing nature of technology and the fact that it constantly comes into your own place from the outside, this is not the way it was when I was young”, she reflected on the changes in culture.
“I feel for parents who have to cope with all of this and try to get the balance right for their children. We need more time for reflection and there is nothing wrong with a bit of boredom – I’d like that to be still around it promotes the imagination. Time out with nothing electronic is important!’
“Do we want to see everything through a screen?” she asked. “Why go out to dinner with friends and then each one spends most of the time on their own phone not engaging with others there?”
“Where is that direct human contact where you get those real feelings directly next to you, in the body, the eyes, the atmosphere, the humanity? Why walk along looking at your phone constantly, when there is so much in the world around you that you are missing” she said.
If she could tell the youth of Australia one thing, it would be this.
“Good luck and keep your eyes open. Follow your heart and stay aware”.
Find a human being to interact with in person, and bring them to Blunden’s show at The Butterfly Club between 22 and 26 February, 2017. Bookings via 03 9663 8107 or online at www.thebutterflyclub.com/show/all-this-living