Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 15 June 2015

Told Look Younger

Jermyn Street Theatre ⋄ 10th June - 4th July 2015

Age and attraction.

Verity Healey

One of the first things I learned during six years spent working in theatre (and it is seared into my brain) was never, ever, put a table slap bang in the middle of the stage. What I was told, and have come to believe through experience and observation, is that drama should move. Not just the words, or the scenery, but the actors too. So there is nothing that makes my heart sink or my energy hit the floor more, than walking into an auditorium and seeing a table in the middle of the stage:  what’s more, just a table and nothing else and one that looks like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Sometimes, though, rules like this are made to be broken. As Stephen Wyatt’s new comedy Told Look Younger is composed of a number of scenes in which three gay men in their sixties meet in a restaurant and sit at table at which they never eat, there doesn’t seem to be much else director Sue Dunderdale could have done except have them sitting around the thing. Even so there are times when you feel like getting up and giving the whole the production a big shake.

Having saying that, there’s much in Told Look Younger which is enjoyable. Once the conceit is established, once the context within which this work must be taken is embraced, the play, looking at the trials and tribulations and loves of civil servant Colin, Jeremy, an architect, and Oliver (a piss take on George Eliot’s Casaubon?) an academic, is actually a bit rollicking, despite its sedentary staging. The nearest thing comparable to it, in tone, thought and feeling that I find myself thinking of, is Hanif Kureishi’s The Mother or Venus, both films directed by Roger Michell and dealing with the loves of those older in years and whom are currently less represented on stage and screen. In this case, the love lives here are those of an older generation of gay men, who find themselves culturally and individually challenged in a Britain that is vastly more accepting, multicultural and sexually aware and promiscuous than it ever has been: the pulls and torments of internet dating sites, falling in love with much younger men, the abilities of sustaining or not, an open relationship and all sorts of physical ailments and sexual needs, are thoroughly comically explored here.

Robin Hooper gives a sweet, wise, and at times bewildered performance as Oliver, a man who would rather cuddle up in bed with Cardinal Newman and a hot water bottle, Christopher Hunter, as Colin, is sharper in contrast and more vulnerable, whilst Michael Garner as Jeremy becomes more and more biting and disrespectful as the years progress. Simon Haines gives a strong comic performance as the waiter in a restaurant that changes its decor according to the fashion as the years go by, something which is not wholly reconciled in the writing – it seems just an added comic distraction.

However, what’s most interesting is the play’s unashamed frank look at desire and at the nature of attraction: none of the men can quite believe that they can still pull. It reveals that attraction is not just about youthful looks (a big debate in the play) or money (a worry) but something else that is unquantifiable. It’s a celebration of the persistence and insistence of desire, and the fear of loneliness and the power of old friendships. It’s also honest in its depiction of the violence and cruelty that comes with love. What’s most interesting is how each man’s progress in the world of love hurries the other men along in its swell: Lacan said somewhere “The other holds the key to the object desired.” Jealousy is a big theme here and it’s also an unconscious survival tactic against the death of love and desire, something these three men are fighting to keep alive. By the end, one feels that they are winning.


Verity Healey

Verity writes for and contributes to Ministry of Counterculture and is a film facilitator for Bigfoot Arts Education. She is also a published short story writer and filmmaker.

Told Look Younger Show Info

Directed by Sue Dunderdale

Written by Stephen Wyatt

Cast includes Robin Hooper, Michael Garner, Christopher Hunter, Simon Haines




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