views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Age of Love
The Hen and Chickens
9th August 2015


Publicity image for Age of Love

Photography provided by All Terrain Theatre

When Ian (Harry Haynes-Wright) leaves home to forge his own identity, he "visits" Sinead (Rebecca Pryle) - note, "visits", definitely doesn't move in with. Loose lips, ships, the council and all that. Sinead may not be that much older than him herself, yet she's far more self-assured and comfortable with who she is, introducing him to a very different hedonistic lifestyle of jungle music and illegal drugs. The irony of course that she's not really helping him find himself, she's just trying to make him more like her. The human condition is nothing if not reliably predictable. Another chance encounter brings Sophie (Maria Hildebrand) to the flat, with the three ending up in a odd flat-share lasting far longer than any of them ever intended, and creating a complicated relationship in which the two women unwittingly compete to mother and influence Ian the most.

Age of Love has been written by Billy Hicks and given how integral music is to the plot's development, naturally he's also designed the sound for this piece. Booming dance tracks blare out to Sinead's delight, edging us closer and closer to the year 2000 and giving the protagonists plenty of time to rearrange the set between scene changes. News announcements mingle with the familiar tunes - we hear protests against Maggie Thatcher, John Major being elected and the funeral of Princess Diana. Time marches on, and Sophie and Ian with it, only Sinead refusing to change, living in the past with her vinyl records and fuzzy memories of raving and taking coke.

Although Sinead and Ian are both written very well, with director Georgina Sowerby bringing out a very natural dynamic, some of the language Sophie uses is clunky and out of place. There's a lovely nod to the history of video games but on the whole, her technical jargon isn't quite right and doesn't match up with the ambitious career woman she's supposed to be. Furthermore, whilst we see Sophie change, we don't necessarily buy into the person she becomes, the characterisation is just not as strong as with the other two protagonists.

We initially meet Ian dressed sensibly and almost exclusively in shades of brown, his clothing very drab in comparison to Sinead's tie dye top and rows of bangles. The two of them are complete opposites, and yet seem to need each other. The lack of romance between the pair is what makes watching them so compelling - Sinead seethes quietly with jealousy and disappointment as Ian tries to step out without her. As for Ian, he's a little older and wiser, however still just as earnest and sweet. Plus ça change.

The premise behind Age of Love is interesting, with the play set against a hugely political and nostalgic backdrop. Hicks' focus on growing up but not necessarily growing old is a compelling watch.

Age of Love ran from 7th to 9th August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Highbury & Islington (Overground, Victoria)

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