The Young Vic's On Ageing is a curious piece of theatre. Started in 1981, the University of Sussex`s Mass Observation Project invited people of all ages to write about the experience of getting older. Excerpts from this project form the basis for Fevered Sleep's On Ageing's spoken content.
"I think skincare is important. I wish I had started 30 years ago," says a ten-year-old. Theo, all of seven years old, follows this up with "I'm 86 and I'm going to have a party when I get out of this wheelchair." The oldest (thirteen and counting) tells us "I like being 4, I want to be 5 so I can be an adult." You get the idea.
The idea of turning the 2D scribblings into 3D anecdotes could become tiresome quickly. Thankfully, the directors break up the talking heads routine with imaginative cutscenes around the idea of "clutter", another symptom of ageing. Carpets, bikes and TVs are rolled on set by some actors while others ring each other on old analogue phones, play with a Polaroid camera, sit around on big leather armchairs gossiping or reading old letters.
There are self-conscious moments too as the cast discuss their own experiences. "I lost a baby tooth but now I have a big tooth," says one actor. "I grew 0.24cm since starting rehearsals," boasts Theo. Madeleine stops the show to announce that it is her birthday so we all sing our best wishes to her.
On Ageing is a love letter to our younger selves ("we were so great together") and a prayer to our future ones ("what do we do now?"). Cynics may label this "Kids Say The Funniest Thing" for the Islington Set but by using children as tabula rasa, the writings take on new life and new meaning.