Ageing is something that transforms us all on the outside and on the inside, but the whole process is much worse if you happen to be a woman. We live in a society obsessed with physical appearance and looking good. Our definitions of beauty are narrow and unforgiving – it is young, fresh-faced and strong. When women break these rules by growing old they are shunned by society and this is the theme of Fleurs de Cimetière. This French production mixes humour and dance to express the cruelty of growing old and to try to understand how to gracefully accept the things you cannot change, like wrinkles.
The all-female cast begin seated, one of their number isolated as the rest stretch and show off ballet moves as if fighting back against their ageing bodies. The other woman tries to speak, but finds she does not yet have the words to express the truth she already knows. The four begin to dance beautifully and softly to elegant French café-style music and immediately you begin to realise that age doesn’t matter at all. These women are ageless and agile as they move, they could be young or old but the dance would still be just as delightful. The other woman speaks this realisation out aloud; it would be easier to be a man, she says, as when they age they start to get attention. Yet being a woman with wrinkles and old, puckered skin isn’t so bad when you come to accept that this is just time passing by. The show makes this point in a way which is both visually enchanting and mentally engaging, contrasting the internal thought process of the isolated woman with the gentle, measured movements of the others. The message of the show is simple and rather obvious, but it is charmingly well put.
The direct translation of the show’s title, Fleurs de Cimetière is Graveyard Flowers. This is the French name for the spots which appear in old age to announce our final destination. It’s a sobering thought and a reminder from this very feminine, graceful show that life is there to be enjoyed, whatever your age.