My Old Man
“Joy’s work & performance explores effectively several themes relevant to our society today, a challenging and thought-provoking performance”
— The Yorkshire Times
My Old Man was a new production that blended live and digital performance which toured across the UK in Autumn/Winter 2021.
When Michał Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha, finally moves out, Michał’s whole world changes. The school dinner lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves onto the street and he has to face his biggest battle yet. My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of Michał, an old, blind, Polish soldier, in this funny and heartfelt production.
The production deals with a number of themes that are relevant to contemporary Britain, including intergenerational relationships, post-traumatic stress disorder, Polish language & family ties.
My Old Man is a spin-off of imagine if’s 2019 production, Jadek, which toured to theatres, prisons and community venues.
“[Francesca Joy’s] work and performance explores effectively several themes relevant to our society today, but particularly the vulnerability of the elderly and the issues that can be encountered by anyone when English is your second language, along with hostility and ignorance by some towards people of other nationalities” Yorkshire Times
My Old Man toured in Autumn 2021 at the following venues:
Polish Klub, Bury – 7th November
Prime Studios, Leeds – 13th November & 14th November
York Theatre Royal, York – 18th November
Touchstones, Rochdale – 19th November
The Bridge House Theatre, London – 21st November, 22nd November [matinee & evening]
Kala Sangam, Bradford – 25th November
Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield – 28th November
The Constitutional, Farsley – 2nd December
“For me [My Old Man] has been unexpectedly moving because it reminded me so much of the relationships I had with my family members” – Audience Member, Kala Sangam
“One thing that was absolutely fascinating was the interaction with the physical and screen. I’ve never seen that before” – Audience Member, Prime Studios
“I think what stuck out with me most was the relationship between Tasha and her grandad. It was a nice thing to see on screen, as it’s usually just two conventional English people, so it was nice to see an intergenerational relationship with a language barrier”– Audience Member, Prime Studios
“You don’t see a lot of performances or things on tv or media with someone who’s blind or deaf, it just doesn’t really happen. So seeing that and the way they interact with others was really fresh” – Audience Member, York Theatre Royal
My Old Man Cast
A note from Chesca Cholewa
“This is the first time that imagine if theatre has worked with digital performance blended with live performance; this grew out of theatres having to close for so long due to Covid – but also as part of our ethos to imagine what more live theatre can do.
We’re so lucky that theatres are now back open. But when I first started writing My Old Man at the beginning of 2021, we were in, yet again, another UK wide lockdown. In making My Old Man part live and part digital, I wanted to ensure that we could still entertain audiences if theatres were still closed – but also have the live element of theatre which we’ve all missed so much if they were open again.
Creating My Old Man has been such a joy – and a massive learning curve! – so we really appreciate your support as we take our first step into this mixed medium.”
A note from Lorraine Bruce
“During lockdown, I volunteered with Age U.K. and got to meet lots of elders. Their warmth, their indomitable spirit and stoic optimism blew me away.
Chesca has written a lovely story that shows the vulnerability and strength of a wonderful gentleman.
My Old Man reminds me how strong we are and how much we all benefit when we come together and care for each other as a community.”
A note from Liam Fox
“From playing such a loveable character in Emmerdale, it’s actually quite a nice challenge to play a character who is completely at odds with that. My character Steve is a right piece of work – but you’ll have to see the show to see what I mean.
The story of My Old Man is so apt for what we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of years – with the rising hate crimes, Brexit and Trump and the mistrust which people have towards each other. But it’s also about how most people are good people – but we can just be swayed by events or what we see on the news.
I think it’s really important that My Old Man brings the story of a normal working-class family, who have Polish heritage, and who are dealing with the fall-out from events over the past few years to stage and screen – and I hope it makes people think”
Creative Team & Crew:
Project Assistant: Rachael McGregor
Check out our Behind the Scenes video of My Old Man, featuring interviews with our brilliant cast and crew!
For My Old Man we reached out to audiences that saw Jadek, however we also aimed to engage new audiences, with a big focus on those with Polish heritage and first time theatre goers.
For Jadek and My Old Man, we focused on one of the play’s key themes of Polish identity. With every production the team not only do extensive research with the people the play is focused on, but they also work directly with them.
“I’m thirty and I’ve never in my life seen a Polish person on stage or TV, who is not an immigrant, cleaner or drug dealer. These are dangerously bad stereotypes” says writer, Francesca, supported by Vice Media Group “Poles are the largest group of foreign nationals, and Polish is England’s second language, but you wouldn’t know that from our programming…There is scant representation of Poles in mainstream British entertainment.”
We also partnered with Deafblind UK for the production and UK tour of My Old Man. They supported us with the audio description to ensure blind and visually impaired audiences had access to the production. They also came to every venue and offered audiences a pre/post show experience which offered engagement with simulation glasses, the opportunity to touch and feel props and costume from the production to explore the characters and informative literature to raise awareness and support those who are deaf and/or blind and their carer’s.
“The story perfectly describes what it is like for those living with sight and hearing loss and also how it affects those that care for them. Touring with the production meant that we could reach audiences and give them a truly immersive experience into the life of those that have sight and/or hearing loss. Through the use of simulation glasses, the audience got a real understanding of the character Michał’s day to day struggles. For those audience members that had a sight impairment, we had Audio Description available and a sensory ‘Touch & feel’ session, allowing them to explore character props and become connected to the characters” Zoe, Community & Business Partner, Deafblind UK