The Rest Of Our Lives – Battersea Arts Centre, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writers and Directors: George Orange and Jo Fong

The entranceway trigger warning for The Rest Of Our Lives, George Orange and Jo Fong’s mash-up of dance, physical theatre, stand-up, and clowning, cautions audiences to expect “middle-aged themes”. Those on display are, amongst others, angst about deteriorating memory, failing physical health, and the visible signs of ageing and decay. Not to forget the trauma of unfulfilled ambition, the challenge of finding purpose outside of work, and the threat of the empty nest and social isolation. Dire stuff one might suppose. Not here. The show is a daft, deranged, and hugely enjoyable 60-minute cabaret-style celebration of the power of optimism in later life, set to music.

The Rest Of Our Lives poses a cascade of questions about being middle-aged, mostly delivered through a dot matrix machine affixed to the rear of the stage (that looks like it has been purloined from a London bus shelter). “How does it go from here? How do I get through this? Will I be alone? Will I be remembered? Am I bothered? Will it hurt?” Orange and Fong’s answers come mostly in the form of near-burlesque responses: dance, comedy, and slapstick set to an eclectic soundtrack of Donna Summer, Leonard Cohen, Blondie, and Beyoncé. Shirley Bassey gets a look in too as does an aria from Henry Purcell. The general theme is just keep going in the face of ageing: “Remember what you did yesterday and do something you’ve never done before” is the duo’s motto.

Orange is a 50-something performance artist, circus performer, and former Drag artist. Fong is a similarly aged director and choreographer with a successful background in dance, film, theatre and opera. The joke, which the duo mine for all its worth, is that these two might traditionally be seen as a little too mature for the kind of ambitious acrobatic physical theatre that comprises The Rest Of Our Lives.

Fong huffs and puffs her way through a ballet-inspired series of missed pirouettes, stopping to catch her breath at one point as “I’m not ready” appears on-screen behind her. Orange clambers through the auditorium and starts climbing towards the light rigging, before wearying middle-aged common sense takes over. A delightfully coquettish erotic dance duet – think your grandparents re-enacting Dirty Dancing at a wedding – sees Orange awkwardly (and riotously) fix an embarrassing costume malfunction with Fong’s skirt. Writhing like they are 40 years younger the dancers consciously lack youthful elegance but that, of course, is the point.

Aspects of the show will not appeal to those who dislike audience interaction. Avoid the front rows if so. Anticipate communal singing, a raffle with some decidedly idiosyncratic prizes, swaying palm to palm with sweated-handed neighbours, and the chance to bat hundreds of table tennis balls across the auditorium.

Runs until 22 June 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Cabaret-style celebration of middle age.

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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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