Sunday, 27 October 2013


One of my favourite places to work is the Reminiscence Theatre Archive in the Old Baths, Woolwich. As soon as I arrive, Jason, the caretaker, hands me the keys with a big smile on his face. I have to sign in on a register book and then I go up the stairs to my little office. I switch on my computer and I start travelling down memory lane.
Pam Schweitzer donated the Reminiscence Theatre Archive to the Drama Department of the University of Greenwich. This archive contains her work of thirty years. Each box contains all the material related to a single play: photos, flyers, touring schedules, scripts, recordings of the interviews that inspired the play, etc. You can discover all about this archive at
Last Tuesday I had a visit from Finland! It was Elvira, the lady who had preceded me as an assistant at the ERN. She told me about how much she loved the place, she asked me not to forget to water her dear plant and she told me a bit about the boxes she had been working on until she left. The last one contained all the material related to Can we afford the doctor? This play is based on the testimonies of people who lived in the 1920s and 1930s and who were interviewed in 1985. In those times before the creation of the National Health Service, the first question that many people asked themselves when someone got ill was exactly this one. In a time when the health cuts make the front pages of our newspapers, both in the UK and Spain, this play becomes especially relevant.
Can we afford the doctor? was first performed in 1985. There is a very interesting Channel Four documentary about the making of this play, directed by Pam Schweitzer and performed by the original Age Exchange Company. You can watch it at

Today, the Reminiscence Theatre Archive Company  (RTA Co), whose members are drama students at the University of Greenwich, is preparing a new version of this play, directed by Ross Crossby, a very enthusiastice graduate from this university, and Pam herself. Lorenzo and me were lucky to attend one of the rehearsals.

After some warm-up exercises, which everybody joined, including us, Pam asked us to remember a time when we were children and had to go to the doctor. Then, in groups, we had to act up these short sketches. For example, a girl called Jo remembered how she had to be given stitches at the age of ten and her mother nearly fainted at the sight of her blood.

Then the members of the company showed another sketch they had prepared the previous week based on one of the memories gathered in Can we afford the doctor? A girl remembered feeling very ill and being taken to hospital to be put first in an isolation room and then in a ward full of adults who told her to shut up whenever she cried at night. The worst was that she had her hair shaved by the nurses. 

The performance was very well choreographed and we could really feel the atmosphere in the hospital ward. The actors and actresses played different roles each, and moved from one to another skilfully. Still, Pam and Ross made them change some things, which improved the final effect.

Then, Pam divided the company into two groups and gave them the same extract of the original play. It was very interesting to see how different people interpreted the same text.

And finally, we had to practice some of the songs from the play. It was good fun, as some of the names of the remedies were real tongue twisters.

And this was our night at the theatre. It reminded me of the Jumble Sale Theatre Company sessions. It was really good fun. 
Photos: Lorenzo Hernandez


  1. I was never your student but I knew you in the school, thank you for sharing your experiences in London. Marisol.

    1. Thank you Marisol, Looking forward to meeting you.

  2. Nice experience!Students there seem to be very participant.

    1. Yes, Pablo, they are really enthusiastic. And they must have everything ready in just a month!