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Credit: Jemima Yong
Credit: Jemima Yong

A Cure for Ageing, Tristan Bates Theatre – Review

Pros: Provocative, daring, unafraid to address the darker side of an issue that affects us all, effective integration of visual and audio clips.
Cons: At times, perhaps crosses the fine line between intensely personal and provocative. 

Pros: Provocative, daring, unafraid to address the darker side of an issue that affects us all, effective integration of visual and audio clips. Cons: At times, perhaps crosses the fine line between intensely personal and provocative.  You’re not necessarily quite sure what you’re going to get with a show that begins with footage of a swimming jelly fish while the single performer on stage begins counting backwards, between what seems like eternal periods of silence. As it turns out, you get something quite clever. The jellyfish we later find out can spend their lives after a certain point reverting…

Summary

Rating

Good

A thoughtful and boundary pushing contemplation on ageing, however this piece focuses very heavily on the heavier side of the story.

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You’re not necessarily quite sure what you’re going to get with a show that begins with footage of a swimming jelly fish while the single performer on stage begins counting backwards, between what seems like eternal periods of silence.

As it turns out, you get something quite clever. The jellyfish we later find out can spend their lives after a certain point reverting back to their youth. Solo performer Ira Brand begins counting us down to two minutes closer to our deaths, finding one older member of the audience in order to calculate how much longer Brand (30) will be on this earth than him, what she will witness and he will not.

It is an uneasy beginning to the evening that perhaps puts a toe across the line between artistic provocation and an aggressive pursuit of a specific response.

A Cure for Ageing continues to reveal Brand’s own relationship with ageing, and her fears regarding her own ageing process. These are perhaps ignited by her grandfather’s dementia and what life now means for her grandmother, her family and herself in light of this.

Brand has created quite a beautiful structure for the show, bouncing between statistical fact highlighted by on-stage demonstrations, personal anecdotes (letters about her grandfather) and audio clips of interviews with people of all ages about getting older.

The use of multi-media within the show had varying levels of impact. Particularly effective was Brand’s live translation from German of an interview with her grandmother elucidating the fact that her grandmother dances in the kitchen every morning. This, followed by Brand dancing on a grave on stage against a background projection of Brand with her grandmother and grandfather, is moving and beautiful but also mildly disturbing.

The video clip of Brand blowing up a balloon with the smoke of one cigarette (each cigarette taking approximately 11 minutes off your life) while she took the air out of the same balloon live on stage was for me, less impactful.

At the crux of it, Brand’s show wrestles with getting to the bottom of being old and getting older as if it is unequivocally an altogether bad thing. Brand’s own grandmother seems to find light in her age and her life, regardless of her situation. However Brand’s final conclusion on ageing appears to be wholly negative. This judgment is arrived at without sharing with her audience the wider breadth of opinions that she gathered from her research.

It was this drive towards a particular outcome, a specific opinion and a singular response that made this piece more uncomfortable than the subject matter itself.

This was a one off performance as part of the First 2014: A Festival of Solo Performances. Four touring dates of A Cure for Ageing go to: http://www.irabrand.co.uk/?works=a-cure-for-ageing

Created and performed by: Ira Brand
Dramaturgy by: Wendy Hubbard
Box Office: 020 7240 6283 (FIRST festival)
Booking Link: http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/FIRST_2014.asp
Booking Until: See website for tour dates.

About Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron
Works in arts marketing/administration. Julia studied theatre at university and once upon a time thought she wanted to be an actor. Upon spending most of her time working in Accessorize in pursuit of the dream she opted for the route of pragmatism and did an English Masters in Shakespeare instead. Julia has been in London for four years where she’s worked in and outside of the arts. In addition to Shakespeare, she loves a good kitchen sink drama and most of the classics but will see pretty much anything. Except puppets – she has a tough time with puppets.