Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Age is a Feeling is a brand-new show inspired by interviews with hospice workers, interactions with mystics and trips to the cemetery. Described as a gripping story about the glorious and melancholy unknowability of human life.
Age is a Feeling charts the seminal moments, rites of passage and turning points in an adult life – your life – from the day you turn 25 through to your death. Every performance, the audience chooses six from 12 stories, as part of the lifespan that unfolds across the show. The remaining stories are left untouched, as a tantalising reminder of how life’s path can diverge due to seemingly insignificant choices.
‘No one gets to know everything about your life, not even you…’ is the opening to this outstanding solo show by Haley McGee in which she talks to us as though on our 25th birthday. She talks directly to us, the audience, everything is phrased ‘you will go/see/think…’ which could easily descend into a parody of a TED talk, or a slightly tedious great aunt dispensing advice but within minutes the audience are absorbed.
Initially it felt odd, as a woman in her 60s, to be listening to one in her 20s telling me what I could expect in my 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. But, as she moves through the future to come, despite clearly never having been there personally, each pithy observation is greeted with nods, chuckles, guffaws from an audience who are of a similar maturity to myself, as she hits the nail on the head. Again. Every time.
Her warmth, openness, earnestness and use of repeated devices – the resolution to eat more veg, drink more water, take more exercise; marking physical changes with a tap on a glass of water as well as the moments when the audience get to choose the next two stories to include provide a framework that holds the show together beautifully.
Initially the pace seems a little pedestrian without much variety but gradually McGee draws you in, her delivery becomes almost mesmerising, hypnotic and completely absorbing.
The stage is set with a tall lifeguard’s chair surrounded by 12 pots, each containing stick of different heights, decorated with flowers, each with a label attached: ‘dog’, ‘plane’, ‘teeth’. The steps and seat give her several different levels to work at and makes the most of a very tiny stage area as well as shifting our focus – those at the top of the steep auditorium (we’re in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre) aren’t always looking down, those at the front aren’t always on top of her and the story. It makes subtle shifts in our perceptions. In addition a particular effect of this space is that the lighting always casts some shadows on the wall which adds to the atmosphere, although I’m not sure it is deliberate, it may just be a limitation of lighting possibilities.
At intervals she picks up a group of cards, offers them to the audience to choose two. Our first two were ‘fist’ and ‘bus’. These are the first two stories we are to hear; with glee she tells us that we won’t hear about ‘oyster’ or ‘hospital’. This is repeated three times making each performance a different show, described by director and dramaturg, Adam Brace as ‘A manifestation of the unknowability of each of our lives’. I probably wasn’t the only person who would like to see the show again, several times.
The writing is lyrical, pithy, sharp and rhythmic and delivered without a moment’s hesitation despite the ever changing flow of the show. It is no easy task to remember the small differences in a script that trigger the route into a different story but we saw no hint that McGee was anything but totally on point.
Overall, this is an outstanding original piece of writing delivered with tremendous panache, confidence and warmth. If you can get a ticket, go!