Age Is A Feeling at Summerhall – Edinburgh Fringe review
Decades trickle away in this heartfelt solo performance
Twelve plants, standing like frail columns in a circle around a Summerhall stage. Each bears a word – such as dog, crabapple, diner, eggs, hospital – abstract, yet personal, laden with history. In the middle, a stepladder, where writer and performer Haley McGee perches as she goes through a life cycle, telling the story of someone whose life really kicked off when they turned 25.
From the naive buds of adulthood to the full bloom of octogenarianism, McGee holds her audience tight with an amiable turn – pausing for the well-wrought witticisms where appropriate, while drawing out various characters that appear throughout the decades in her protagonist's life. It's a dry, accomplished piece of solo performance, never overly static yet managing to find points of poignant stillness.
In fact, she layers in a largely successful interactive element to proceedings. Plucking the words from the plants, she asks audience members to pick some at random. Six are chosen, and used to weave together McGee's narrative, while six are discarded, like a train clattering through a station rather than pausing to pick up passengers. We never find out what her protagonist made of her dog. But we spend five minutes during a pivotal diner conversation. It's a brilliant reflection of the suppleness of memory – how we recollect certain things while others are lost in the murky depths of time.
For all that, it's hard to shake the feeling that the whole show is just a series of truisms and aphorisms weaved into a sketchily-drawn narrative, and never as profound as it might appear to be. Yes, bodies change, old assumptions have to be rewritten. Things you believe to be true turn out to be the wickedest of lies. To quote Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, that's life.
It's the climax to the piece, where McGee layers the plot with an urgency brought on by imminent death, that strikes the best. The audience surrounding me seemed to love it, so perhaps I'm too curmudgeonly or too close to 25 to realise the fascinating journey to come.