Applied Theatre in Later Life
: Participation, Facilitation and Shame Resilience

  • Georgia Grace Bowers

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This doctoral project is concerned with growing older in England and the role that Applied Theatre can play in later life. The central question of the research is how Applied Theatre can be used as a tool to challenge society’s ageist understanding of older identity and the impact this has on adults aged over 65. To examine the research theme the study draws upon the qualitative methodologies of Grounded Theory/Autoethnography and has been split into three strands. The first strand relates to The Chatter Project, a fortnightly theatre group, run in partnership with the Chichester Festival Theatre. The Chatter Project engaged with adults aged over 65 and examined what it was like to grow older in England and the impact of participation in theatre activities. The second strand conducted interviews with Creative Ageing practitioners from across England and considered their experiences of working within the field. The third and final strand reflected upon my own experiences as a leading practitioner in Creative Ageing and as the lead artist for The Chatter Project.
The study presents that frequent encounters with ageism can develop feelings of shame, which emerge through disconnection, capitalism and the ageing body, language and elderspeak and interpersonal power dynamics. However, Applied Theatre challenges ageism and reduces ageist induced shame by encouraging shame resilience. Theatre activities generate shame resilience as they promote a sense of authentic pride, connection and belonging, joy and laughter and purpose. The study contributes Pro-Ageing Praxis, a methodology for working creatively with older adults, that draws together theatre making activities, which have been found to challenge gentro-phobia, reduce ageist induced shame and in doing so stimulates shame resilience.
Date of Award20 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorErika Hughes (Supervisor) & Catherine McNamara (Supervisor)

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