A Banbury acting and music group took a detour from its usual performances to make the residents of a nursing home the stars of their own show.
Voices Across Time, which specialises in bringing history alive with old time musical shows complete with period costumes and historically accurate facts, turned the tables on the audience, incorporating ten residents of Glebefields Nursing Home in Banbury into a production of George and the Dragon.
School friends Flo Taylor, Joe Cummings and Harriet Wells formed the group to entertain and educate audiences all while raising money for local charities.
Ms Wells studied for a Masters in Music Psychology and it was during this that she became aware of the great therapeutic value of music.
Harriet said: “This is the first time we’ve done anything like this in this setting. Doing the research there’s not a lot out there like this.
The five week long rehearsal and performance saw residents, previously passive and demur, have a new lease of life.
Ms Wells said: “The first week we had five or six residents. Then they opened the room up and we got more people, plus the same people every week, and you start to develop relationships with the residents and they’re engaged completely in the music.
“It was amazing that week upon week that the confidence, the relationships and the music got so much better”.
She added: “One lady, who only came to the final performance, she had severe dementia and didn’t say anything but she would just wake up during the songs that she knew. It turns out she used to be an opera singer.”
Residents were instrumental in choosing the songs for the production entitled ‘Gallant George and the Deadly Dragon’, which resulted in a joyous juxtaposition of old time favourites structured to fit within the confines of a classic fairy-tale.
MS Wells said: “With a lot of artistic license we re-wrote the story of George and the Dragon. The residents volunteered songs that they loved so we had songs like ‘Eldelweiss’ and ‘Que Sea, Sera’, so we re-wrote it to interweave these songs a lot better.”
Residents also accompanied the songs with percussion instruments supplied by the group and were given rehearsal CD’s so they could practice in between the weekly in person rehearsals.
Ms Wells said: “We interviewed the staff afterwards, just for our own research, and they said that working towards a project, this final performance, the excitement in the care home has made these five weeks pass so quickly and it’s all they could talk about.”
Voices Across Time are currently preparing for their more usual performance format with their next show - Old Boundary Lane - a tale based around the suffragette movement of 1913 and featuring the groups trademark use of feel good old time songs and period costumes.
They will perform at the Adderbury Institute on June 30 and July 1 but would relish the opportunity to take their songs and enthusiasm into another care home environment.
Ms Wells said: “It was really good. They were really good performers.”
To find out more about the group or to contact them about hosting an interactive show in your care or nursing home click here.