A Surreal Look At Old Age In A Shop Window

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 35 months ago
A Surreal Look At Old Age In A Shop Window ★★★☆☆ 3

The final bathroom scene involves a young boy helping the elderly man bathe. Photo Manuel Vason.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

We've always been a fan of the creative art projects that Artangel have put on, including a fake archaeological dig on Tottenham Court Road and a derelict house brought to life with ghostly whispers. This is the first time we'd attended one of their theatre productions and we knew we were in for something unorthodox once we were asked to sit on a bench and don some headphones outside a shop window.

The shutters raise to reveal a kitchen where an old man enters and goes about making breakfast, spilling his cereal and realising he has no milk for his tea. Then suddenly a boy emerges from the previously empty fridge with some milk and proceeds to help the elderly man, who doesn't seem to notice the boy's presence. There is some clever stagecraft as the cupboards fill with earth with an onion buried within and the fridge door opens once more to reveal a live chicken.

The surreal tone continues into the next room, which is seen through an adjacent window. It's a living room this time with game shows on the television that merge into the aged man's life as he tries to remember facts from his own past, complete with Generation Game conveyor belt and cuddly toy. But who is the young boy who accompanies him? Is he a reminder of his past youth? Or a symbol of how different generations can benefit and learn from each other? The director Lu Kemp has left this purposefully ambiguous and it's up to the audience to draw their own conclusions.

The last set-piece takes place within the building: a bathroom scene that deals with hygiene and is arguably the least effective of the three vignettes, possibly as it holds less comedic value and the child in this scene is a lot less helpful.

The show is essentially three related short stories in one, with different actors in each part who all turn in solid performances. The production is a lot of fun but we never thought it landed the intended deeper message of the struggle of daily life when state support is decreasing.

The fact that tickets are booked on a 'pay what you can' basis makes this great value for money. Tickets are sold out online but at our viewing it wasn't full attendance and random interested passers by were able to join, watch and listen in — with the staff on hand very welcoming towards anyone who wanted to become part of the audience.

Have your circumstances changed? is directed by Lu Kemp and has been commissioned by Artangel in collaboration with Age UK Islington, St Luke’s Community Centre, Central Street Cookery School, and Vital Arts. It's on at the former FADS shop, 2-3 Archway Mall, N19 5RG until 28 June.

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Last Updated 16 June 2015