May 16, 2008

BURST Festival: Und

[once again, this a show from BAC's BURST festival and I work at BAC. So approach me with due caution, like an untrustworthy llama.]

I came to this show with a nervous trepidation, prepared to be sat anxiously bored, longing to love it but ultimately failing.

This is a show about aging. This is a show about growing old, about being old. This is a show made by old people. And I like being young.

I like being young and naive and hopeful and filled with nervous energy. I like being lost in daydreams of the future. I like to be child. I like to pretend. I like fall in love too often and too easily. I like to play run or jump or dance to the point of exhilarating, euphoric exhaustion. I like to imagine that I still have most of my life to lead. And behind all of this there’s probably a crushingly, suffocating fear that one day I’ll die and it’ll be all over. And the thought of being old, of knowing that you’ve had your shot at most things, that you’re body won’t move like that again, that you’re not going to be a footballer or a 400 metre runner or an Oscar winning director, that terrifies me.

And so I’ve generally tried to avoid thinking about being old. I’ve never watched Harold and Maud. I’ve imagined that one day I’ll undergo some evolution into someone who is old and happy and suddenly nothing will please me more than a good book and the remembering all the things I once did. And so I try to imagine old people are like another species, The Elderly.

All of which was the baggage I trawled behind me as I took my seat meekly in the audience for Und.

And initially things looked like they were panning out as grimly anticipated. There was a man, an old man, with a face set into a cartoon grimmace, a caricature of a person (an Elderly, in its natural habitat), walking slowly, solemnly in a square across the bare stage. But then something changed. In a moment of spectacular, staggering beauty he began to skip. His face never moved a muscle and yet everything was different. Now that same grimmace was the knowing disguise of an entirely different person, no longer a hollow vision of An Old Person, but someone.

In a moment of marvellous (and long, long overdue) epiphany I suddenly realised that in 20, 30, 40 years time I will exactly as I do now. I am still, fundamentally, the same anxious, passionate, arrogant person I was 20 years ago, sitting in Class 2 longing for the teacher to ask me a question. I will always be that person. When I am 60 I will want to skip and fall in love too easily and become a rock star and I’ll still think I’m right about everything and I’ll still be hugely daunted by anyone who seems righter than me. One day I’ll wake up and it’ll be my sixtieth birthday and I’ll wonder how the hell I got here. And it’ll be terrifying and wonderful in equal measure.

That’s what this show is full of. People like me. Proud people, fragile people, funny people, sexy people. People full of wit and joy and life, moving across a bare stage, looking us in the eye and being who they are.

Like Jerome Bel, the beauty of it comes from their everydayness. From a simplicity, a transparency, that allows us to gaze out at a group of people not unlike ourselves, doing something we could do, marvelling at the sameness of all of us. At the delicacy and grace and wit that we are all able to conjure.

On the day of the first day of the show we also had a Tea Dance here. A lot of the cast from Und went along. One of the women from the show was asked if she was going to be there and she responded with a look of horror and asked why would she want to come all the way to England to hang out with a bunch of old people. That’ll be me. For better or for worse that’s who I’ll always be.

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