Alice Schofield’s If We Were Older explores the highs and lows of young love and self discovery, it’s tragic, comedic, optimistic and heart-warming as it tells the stories of Maggie and Daisy side by side, Maggie’s being set in the days of her youth, and Daisy’s taking place in 2018.
The clever thing about Schofield’s writing is that it doesn’t just highlight the similarities in these teenage coming of age stories, despite them happening decades apart, she also suggests to the audience just how far we have come as a society, where the LGBTQ+ community can feel comfortable to simply be themselves, a privilege many of us take for granted which Maggie, a lesbian in her 70s, points out. In her story, despite the strong feelings between the two young ladies, societal expectations force them to conform, whereas during Daisy’s story, the crux really is centred around how to be in a healthy relationship regardless of gender, as girls liking girls is talked about the same as a heterosexual relationship in the scenes where Daisy seeks the support of her best friend, Kayla. Schofield emanates through her writing an impressive level of maturity, each character a truly developed and necessary inclusion, creating a world in which it is impossible not to become completely invested as an audience member.
The entire cast and crew work so well together to create a seamlessly snappy 40-minute piece. The beginning of the play is set in a London Underground tube carriage, creatively suggested through Sadeysa Greenaway- Bailey’s low hanging benches which are attached to the lighting rig, even the visible wires are used by the performers as the poles in the tube carriage. These benches are positioned diagonally across the Dorfman space and the seats contain pieces of costume (Helen Bermingham) and props (Catherine Kapff) which are stored under cushions that open and close, enabling the (all female) performers, under Rachel Lincoln’s direction, to utilise every inch of the stage in a new way each time, despite such a deceivingly stripped back set. Paul Knott’s lighting design supports this also, using focused spots and stage washes combined with Jack Lord’s sound design to effectively establish each setting, whether it’s a classroom, a bedroom or a suburban street at night-time.
Showing during Pride month, If We Were Older is a thoroughly deserving winner of the National Theatre’s playwriting competition, New Views, using this title as a stimulus for what it meant then and what it means now to be a lesbian, to be human and to know that these labels are both equal and the same.
If We Were Older played at the Dorfman Theatre until 13 July 2018
Photo: National Theatre website