Edinburgh Fringe 2013
ReviewThere are tears during Ira Brand’s A Cure for Ageing. Little sniffle sounds from here and there in the semi-dark as she talks to us about clothiers, jellyfish, and vital statistics. The subject of Brand’s interest is literally as personal as it gets. All of us will age, almost all of us will grow old, and every one of us will die. Through an hour that passes by all too quickly, Brand explores how it feels to become old, the effects of ageing on our bodies and minds, and the impact our own ageing has on those close to us. This is not a show one would describe as pleasant or entertaining. It’s powerful, uncomfortable, and beautiful.
No one likes to think about the inevitable end. It’s like a shadow, always with us but (usually) in the background, forgotten, silent. A Cure for Ageing places death and the passage of time under a microscope. Arresting, we are bombarded with facts, figures, and other, more personal, information. Brand makes connections with members of her own family as well as strangers she has interviewed. Her methods are unashamedly unscientific yet the work carries an authority born out of absolute honesty. Based on her calculations (carried out in sharpie on the skin of her arm), Brand can tell you exactly when your time is up (maybe), and it’s with these cold figures that she begins to weave a sense of the fragility of life. We are temporary creatures (some more temporary than others). Brand reminds us of the value of every minute as she prods us to examine how we spend those minutes.
Sitting in the twilight of her performance, watching ghostly creatures sway and float on life-size projections as Brand watches us, impassive, we become aware of time as currency – as a commodity we spend (though we can never earn more). All sorts of choices begin to seem frivolous as we are taken on a tour of our lives and asked questions about our vices. Brand is never condemning, never castigating. Her eyes shining, she is full of pity for us, for all of us. There is a value in thinking about these things – a sense of possibility begins to arise as we consider that we must one day succumb and that, with each passing minute, that time is getting closer. In that finality there is some glimmer of hope: a delicate, fragile beauty that exists in the ephemeral.
Brand is twenty-nine years old. Many in her audience are far more advanced in years, but we are all strangers walking into an undiscovered country. Through her research and the fluttering, papery voices that float to us from recorded interviews, she begins to uncover a kind of road map. Afterwards, in twos and threes, we depart the theatre. Walking down Dalmeny Street in the thin, watery light of afternoon we are, each of us, ultimately alone as we take up the journey.