Age Is Just A Feeling – Soho Theatre, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writer: Haley McGee

Director: Adam Brace

Haley McGee’s beautifully written and immaculately performed monologue, Age Is Just A Feeling, tells the tale of one woman’s adult life. McGee delivers much of the monologue sitting atop what seems to be a tennis umpire’s chair placed at the centre of a circular clockface, the intervals of which are indicated by colourful tall-stemmed flowers. As the hours move on, we hear a different anecdote about the character’s life: from the celebratory promise of a 25th birthday surrounded by family, through the ups and downs of a career, to the sadness of childless and often unfulfilling relationships, to final wisdom-filled years as a octagenarian.

The storytelling has a twist. As the unnamed narrator tells us at the outset, “no one gets to know everything about your life, not even you.” So, as the hours tick by, audience members randomly choose which of several different choices of anecdotes they will hear. The remaining pieces, scripted, prepared, and comprising the baggage of the narrator’s life, are left unspoken and unheard. It is a narrative artifice that might be gimmicky in less assured hands. Here, delivered with just the right measure of dry wit by a charismatic and engaging McGee, the structure offers a sharp comment on how random happenstance and chance drive much of life. There is a reminder here too that all life stories, even ones as exquisitely rendered as this, are necessarily selective and incomplete.

Although under 40 McGee writes about later life in a way that is bittersweet and often tear-inducing in its wistful sadness. It is entirely convincing. Indeed, so well observed is much of McGee’s prose that the work has a feeling of autobiography by a writer of much more advanced years. What makes the writing so effective are the details. The horror of finding one’s first grey pubic hair. The random encounter in a park that leads to a lifetime friendship. The violent recurring dreams whose meaning only becomes apparent at the end of a lifetime. The feel of looking in the mirror in middle age and seeing “your mother’s bum attached to your body”.

Occasionally there is a feeling that some of the older narrator’s regrets about her earlier life, such as not flossing enough or drinking too much, are the ephemera of decidedly first-world problems. Nevertheless, Age Is Just A Feeling is wise in its intent and clever in its execution. Theatrical expressions of the joyful possibilities of a life, well-led, rarely come as fervent, gut-wrenching, or accessible as this.

Runs until 11 March 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Immaculately performed monologue.

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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