Self-confessed rebel Bonnie Heath takes part in TRP’s appropriately named Acting Up scheme, a drama group for over 50s who are interested in the performing arts.
At 74, Bonnie proves that age is just a number and just because you’re retired, you can still have fun and learn new things.
Bonnie is originally from Kent and had moved to Devon with her family, where she worked as a careers advisor in a school for many years.
Bonnie recalls her first experience of theatre when she was just four-years-old.
“My first experience was in Kent and my dad took me to a pantomime. They put me on the stage, and I was one of the children that went to pieces and couldn’t speak.
“Then when we came to live in Devon, because the Theatre Royal is such an amazing theatre, I was hooked. I would come to shows all the time.
“I love the theatre, and here in Plymouth aren’t we lucky.
“I’ve got tickets for almost everything. I just love it. I like the plays and the drama, especially musicals, I find them so uplifting and enthralling. I love the live part of it, and watching the audience, feeling like you’re part of something.”
Acting Up is TRP’s outreach programme that works with anyone over the age of 50. It began in Spring 2022, in partnership with local befriending charity The Elder Tree. Sessions are held weekly in The Lab at the theatre every Tuesday morning. It’s a chance for people to meet others, learn new skills and have fun in a creative and friendly environment.
“It was just face the fear and do it, and trying things that are out of my comfort zone. I don’t mind being a bit silly or acting up and misbehaving.
“The sessions are fun, mad, but they’re clever and what comes out of us as a group is amazing. We’ve learnt a lot about the theatre as well and about how it works.
“We do a bit of miming, acting and lots of silliness.”
Being silly is something Bonnie admits has always come naturally to her.
“I was the clown at school. I’ve always been a bit of a show off and I used to tell stories to other children on the bus when I was very little.”
Bonnie says that as she gets older, she cares less about what people think of her.
“It’s the age we are, past the age of caring. Let’s just do it give it a go. Let’s enjoy life; I spent too many years being young and worried about what other people think and I don’t anymore.”
Acting Up has also given Bonnie the chance to meet new people.
“I always thought it would be a bit uncomfortable but the more I do it, I realise we’re all show offs really.
“I like exploring all the ideas that we come up with, but I also like doing something with it at the end.
“We lost any inhibitions and learned to work with lots of different people. I like the atmosphere; the whole ambience of the theatre is amazing.”
Last summer, the group took part in TRP’s Community Celebration Week for the 40th anniversary. They took to The Lyric stage to perform a 10-minute piece in front of an audience.
“I thought it was never going to work, but I threw myself into it, and I loved it.”
Bonnie is keeping busy during retirement and has even taken up painting and dancing.
“I fit everything in during the week and then family at the weekend, so I have a busy life and I love it.”
Find out more about Acting Up: theatreroyal.com/acting-up
Watch Bonnie’s video: