Review by Taylor Kendal
For as long as it has been humanly possible, society has had this obsession with youth and beauty. Making people believe that to be truly happy in life, you must look a certain way, retain a certain build, and pay out thousands of dollars to conform to society’s ideals of what beauty is. Women in particular have been enticed by such things. Maggie McCormack is absolutely no exception, and it is these experiences that have been the inspiration behind her one woman show F*cking Ancient.
Written and performed by McCormack, and directed by Ngaire Dawn Fair, F*cking Ancient draws on real (though slightly tweaked) experiences from her real life; from deep rooted desires to love and accept her body by any means necessary, and interwoven with stories from her career as a podiatrist, and the elderly clients she works with, as well as trauma and experiences from her own past that are catalysts for her desire to fight the natural changes of life.
At the crux of the story is McCormack’s journey to self love, and the obsession with surgeries and exercise and treatments of all kinds that will give her the body that society deems is perfect and will make her happy – despite the constant and rigorous, not to mention expensive upkeep it would involve. The commentary on the world’s obsession with looking younger and ignoring the act of ageing gracefully is heavy throughout the piece, broken up with humorous anecdotes from her life as a podiatrist, and a woman looking for love in her 40s.
Though created to be a theatre performance, the delivery of this piece feels more like a short film rather than a theatre piece, but for majority of the run time, it works for what McCormack is trying to do, especially with the portrayals of various characters and the different point of views.
Admittedly, there are moments where I was left wondering what was happening; what little anecdotes and seemingly irrelevant changes of course had to do with the story, to find in most occasions that the link between the two became relatively clear. A downside for me, however, was the rare moments that were so removed from the content that it had my engagement dwindling, just for a moment or two before recapturing it again.
McCormack is a wonderful, natural storyteller. She is engaging and honest, and her words, though taken from her real experiences and scripted, are natural in their delivery, as though she is simply catching up with an old friend, before delving deep into her mind and the deep rooted obsession that is consuming her life. There are moments of this performance that will be familiar for anyone, particularly women of a certain age who find themselves not fitting with ‘what society claims’ is beautiful (I know I’ve been there plenty). There is a poetry in McCormack’s words that resonates deeply. “I feel like I’m failing at life by aging.” And it hits you at your very core, as did the way she spoke about her clients, uplifting them about their beauty when they were talking down about their appearances, and the stark, at times painful contrast to how she speaks about herself. It’s relatable, raw and it is painfully real.
F*cking Ancient is a powerful and honest insight into something that so many people feel like they are alone in facing, and the importance of finding peace and happiness in loving yourself as you are, and the struggle of living in a world where beauty standards can be one’s downfall. Playing as part of Adelaide Fringe until March 20.