Interviewer: I gather these drama courses which you are attending have really given you a new lease of life. Jennifer, can you try and explain the fascination you derive from a hard three-hour session at the college after a full day’s work?
Jennifer: Above all, each session is fun, it energises me. I actually go home with more energy on a Tuesday than any other day of the week. The reason is simple, I feel alive after the drama classes. At first I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the course; you have to relate to the others in the group. In fact most of the work is in small groups or at least in pairs and obviously the natural barriers between strangers exist. I can honestly say that from the first evening this did not bother me , and I’m not an extrovert by nature. In fact, if anything, I’m rather shy and reserved.
Interviewer: And what about you, Harry?
Harry: Well, as far as I’m concerned, drama classes have freed me, they’ve allowed me to be creative and successful in so many ways that I’m not, usually. I particularly enjoy the sessions when we just create something out of nothing, we improvise. There is usually some time in the evening when we make up either a character or a conversation or a situation and act that out with the others. The spontaneous nature of improvisation is what’s so appealing to me .
Jennifer: You can’t ‘get it wrong’, you’re having a go, that’s all. I mean you just stand up and become another person for five minutes; perhaps you’re like yourself or totally different, that doesn’t matter. What counts is that you take on a new personality, and you actually become that person. And, since you invent the part, you can’t be out of character and it’s impossible to make mistakes . I expect this will change when we move onto text, won’t it, Harry?
Harry: Yes, yes, I’m really looking forward to using text in the classes and even to learning lines. I just find some text fascinating and can’t wait to really work on it. Of course it will be different from improvisation, where we make up the parts we play, but I know you can lose yourself in a part, and playing it your way is going to be the challenge.
Jennifer: Obviously, a specific part will be open to interpretation and a director may want you to do it in a certain way . Imagine playing a Shakespearean hero or heroine, well, there are bound to be different ways of saying those famous lines and the actor or actress may not agree with the director, but this is a stage we haven’t reached yet. For the moment, it’s about overcoming self-consciousness and learning to be sensitive. Last week we had a new person
in the group and it became really clear that he hadn’t tuned in to the way in which the classes work, you know, it was embarrassing really, he overdid it and tried to dominate the group, he didn’t wait and watch and listen. This was when it struck me that we’ve been learning to listen to each other and to respond accordingly ; and of course you bring yourself into it, but not too much and not too inappropriately.
Harry: I couldn’t agree more. He actually asked me personal questions which were intrusive and could have been saved for the tea break. I found it off the point and distracting. Well, I suppose he felt awkward too, but if I’ve learned anything this term, it’s not to jump in, but to take my time and allow the others time by being patient when they are struggling with, for example, creating an unfamiliar character. The group has to develop together and the newcomer was an outsider . I guess it wasn’t his fault, but he didn’t seem interested in learning from the situation. That’s probably what annoyed me.
Jennifer: I’d be surprised if he came again. He didn’t look comfortable.
Interviewer: Would you say this receptiveness to each other is the key lesson so far, Jennifer?
Speaker 1: I’d often thought about living here, but my husband’s work as Head of Personnel for an engineering firm tied him to the UK and I worked in a hospital. Of course, we came here on holiday and got to know the place. Now we’ve retired here , we don’t have to go home at the end of the summer and face the harsh English winter, and that’s the greatest bonus without a doubt . We’re getting used to the local people. They try to help us, though we’re not proficient in the language yet. It’s not hard picking it up in shops and cafes, and of course there’s TV too.
Speaker 2: I was posted here three years ago. At first, I wasn’t very keen on the idea of coming. It’s hardly a very cultural place, is it? But frankly it’s grown on me. I’m quite an outdoor person too and what I really appreciate are the many leisure opportunities and people with time on their hands to share them with.Obviously, the weather helps, although it’s unbearably hot in July. The embassy  pool and squash courts  are quite reasonable and we have access to other facilities locally. There are a few tournaments during the year – not very high standard but quite fun. I’ve also taken up a new interest – old buildings. The local architecture’s fascinating!
Speaker 3: I’d always intended to travel, do a few short contracts in faraway places and then go home to study to be a specialist. So I came here 20 years ago and… sort of stayed. Initially, the work was quite different from what I dealt with in my surgery  in London, although it’s routine now. It’s certainly a good lifestyle, I have to admit, very reasonable remuneration for the hours I have to put in, and that’s the key . It allows me to put something by for my retirement and indulge my hobbies. It’s a good place to grow old – sports, great golf courses for example, if you’re interested, which I’m not really! (laughs).
Speaker 4: I started work near London, doing a very routine job, maintaining equipment in a water purification plant . Then I was asked to come out here. I wasn’t keen at first as it involved working in the mountains on a new dam. I decided to try it for a year because the salary was acceptable and I thought the experience would be useful. But I stayed on because the job provides so much variety. I head a team of workers now on a new project, things I wouldn’t normally get to do at my age . I live in a basic bungalow with amazing views over the plantations and rice fields. It’s great!
Speaker 5: It all started when I came here on holiday. I was wandering around the market, looking for souvenirs and the craftsmanship impressed me. They’re great at carving wood or weaving fabrics. I’d been thinking of taking early retirement, then it struck me. Why not set up something of my own here? So I began in a small way, sending local handicrafts and produce back to small specialist shops. It took off and now I supply large department stores . It’s hard, working for yourself, but I love being here because the locals are so easy to get on with . They’ll always give you a helping hand and I feel part of things, which is great…