50 Acts – Wendy Houstoun @ Dance Base
A lively performanace combating ageism
Stunning videos and humourous use of text, mime, speech and movement, make this an inventive piece of experimental physical theatre, full of authenticity about being age 50+.
Former collaborator with Lloyd Newson's DV8, Wendy Houstoun surprises us with various random acts. Very active and flexible, she rushes around, frequently with intentional falls, acknowledging the fear of frailty. But she combats ageism with ironic humour, wearing a hard hat, complaining at youth telling 'old' people, at least over age 33, to stand aside, and a great scene when anger takes over and she smashes vinyl records with a hammer to a music-score. The humour turns bitter and the juxtaposition of a speech about cuts by David Cameron is particularly effective played against a film of chorus girls while Houston sits in a chair as if in a care-home.
Throughout the piece, Houston draws attention to artifice and theatricality by referencing what she is doing: "Now I will stand here," as she stands, or later "Now I will gesture" as she gestures. It is clever, but rather distancing. Perhaps it was why, though charmed and touched at times, I was not deeply moved. But does that matter? Originality and humour go a long way.