The strange thing is that age has been lurking at the back of my mind lately. Just pieces of coincidence being shown old photos, school reports, seeing someone from 20 years ago, which doesn’t seem right somehow. I’ve spoken about it with friends and we don’t get this concept of ageing, what is it based on is it solely based on your birthday or related to your achievements, the landmarks of marriage, jobs and children.
All this is bubbling away in the mush of my mind when I go to see Ira Brand’s ‘A Cure for Ageing’ it’s all there as a place myself in front of a lightly dressed stage. On the left is a mic’ed up table and chair to the right there stands another mic stand decorated with a solitary sparkly balloon emblazoned with the number 100. Quickly and as if from nowhere Ira appears carrying two buckets, placing them down she approaches the mic and says 50. There’s a pause a projection of a jellyfish springs to life like somekind of screensaver.
Time passes, people shift, giggles, Ira breaks the silence with the number 49 then pauses again. She then proceeds to informs us that we are two minutes closer to death. Two minutes older, two minutes where unable to regain, but what would of I done with those moments and anyway I have already agreed to give those moments to Ira. An old voice gives a brief statement about old age Ira introduces herself, she 30 years old and she has been thinking about ageing. Of what it means to be young, to be old if this liminal events have any meaning or if it’s all a case of perspective.
At one point she asks members their ages, people volunteer this information freely. She asks me, and then with that information figures out the year that I’ll die, the statistics written pragmatically on her arm aren’t disturbing. Nor is the fact that Ira will outlive me by 12 years, even when she lists the things she’ll see and I’ll miss doesn’t bother me. Until she mentions that we’ll both miss the 100th anniversary of Apollo 11, that piques something I mean I always assumed that I’ll see it and probably from the Moon itself.
Within this information, the death dates written on her forearms indicate a form of pragmatism that’s inbuilt when thinking about ageing, that it’s simply a case of measurement, of counting. Perhaps this is all a way of dealing with the complex nature of ageing, turning it a packet of data, putting it behind a screen of banal numbers. Ira carries on crunching numbers, being a smoker she works out that each cigarette takes 11 minutes of a person’s live and its takes the equivalent of a balloon full of air to smoke a cigarette. A projection show Ira smoking a cigarette and filling the shiny balloon with that breath, live she begins to transfer that breath into a clear plastic bag.
If I remember my GCSE biology right, living things output stuff (BIOMASS?) and as the metallic celebratory balloon beings to shrink and wrinkles it seems to me that somehow, we don’t have the evidence of ageing. For the individual the subtle changes may not be noticeable or rather be easy to ignore, if you could catch your breath in a series of bags you’d have to rethink the way you live. After all were all travelling into the future at 1 second per second. Yet we don’t know what this means, what it means get old to be older. There is a moment in the performance which re-enforces this, when Ira recounts a time on seeing an old man on the tube and the need to know what old age is, what it felt like leads to her yelling her demands on stage. I say her demands, these are our demands. This is the fate that awaits us, a fate that some form of evolutionary amnesia that lets us get on with everyday life.
Even though it’s on Ira’s mind it’s on everyone’s collective minds and she has collected these vague notions inter weaved them with the personal effects the passing on time has had on her life. It all adds to a poetic, elegant and meditative show that is about life. What we do with it what makes is worthwhile, the difference between being alive and just being. I’ve missed out quite a lot of the show, one reason time is moving on. I will mention Ira’s delicate and elegant movements in describing an immortal, regenerating jellyfish along with her joyful dancing on earth (it was in the buckets brought on at the beginning) as if dancing on her own grave in the denial of any idea of final resting places.
The second’s count down and the lights go out, we maybe closer to death, but were here and we have these moments to do with what we want. As The Flaming Lips say All We Have is Now.