On Ageing, Young Vic, London
Monday 04 October 2010
Plenty of children in theatre are played by 25-year-old actors trying to look naive.
It was refreshing, then, to see seven actual children performing David Harradine and Sam Butler's devised play, which discusses what it is and feels like to be old.
The four boys and three girls, aged seven to 13, utterly enchanted their audience as they sat in a row trotting out the wisdom of their great age and experience. Coming from the mouths of babes, tropes about good skincare, slippers and feeling 17 but looking 75 were very funny.
Theo Peters, the youngest and smallest, drew gasps and coos by his mere presence. All the performances were strong, but a cheeky Madeleine Jones (10) had the funniest lines and Georgie Barnes (11) was unselfconsciously entertaining.
Although carefully put together, the dialogue felt largely unscripted. At various points things went wrong – a microphone got knocked over, a picture frame fell off – but they carried it off, adlibbing charmingly.
As the performance progressed, the minimalist set became littered with the detritus of the decades of life they were describing. Old televisions, rocking horses, records, worn carpets, a hat stand – paraphernalia that usually ends up in the attic took over the formerly white space and left it in chaos.
At points the children stopped talking and picked their way through the objects, absorbing themselves in playing. This seemed designed to give the audience time to reflect on their own ageing, but it produced a lag in pace which seemed overlong.
The kids were brilliant at supporting each other. At one point the youngest cast member prompted a faltering line. During silences they looked round expectantly at each other to say, "Who's next?"
The play had moments of witty genius and made some lovely statements on the passage of time. Very appropriate for the Young Vic, which turned 40 this year.
To 9 October (020 7922 2922)
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