Writer Helen Goldwyn on Pulling Faces
Pulling Faces was born out of many discussions between Louise Jameson and myself, one of us a successful actress and celebrated beauty (Louise), the other a considerably less well-known performer, possessing neither beauty nor even physical distinctiveness of any kind (me)! Difficult as my journey in show-business had been (due, in part, to said physical deficiencies!) it seemed that, when it came to ageing, Louise had by far the bigger challenge than I. First off, she was battling the constant judgement of people who had watched her on TV and still expected her to look a certain way, and who thought nothing of voicing their disappointment upon seeing that she looked older than they remembered. Secondly, she was under pressure to conform to industry expectation for a woman of her age and ‘get some work done’ -having observed most of her peers bowing to that pressure then working more as a consequence. The interesting thing to my mind though was that, although our experiences as actresses had differed, our personal hang-ups were remarkably similar. We were both focused on our physical negatives, both unhappy about ageing and putting on weight yet not possessing the will-power to keep as fit as we should then, of course feeling full of self-loathing about that lack of self-discipline. Most importantly, we both wanted to be true to ourselves and ‘real’ yet felt almost obligated to bow to the pressure to stay looking young, if only because everyone else was doing it!
With that in mind, we wanted to explore a premise in the play where the lead character, Jo, is an older woman (55) at the whim of the media indstry in which she has her career but whose secret personal preference is to embrace reality and love herself despite the inevitable physical changes which come with age. She is conflicted as she wants her career whilst knowing it will always be dictated to by public perception which, in turn, has been shaped by media manipulation. (Who can tell anymore who is completely surgery free and who has been nipped and tucked? I remember seeing Annie Lennox in an interview in recent times and being shocked at the fact that she actually looked her age, which in turn prompted me to wonder at the fact that no other celebrity women I had seen on TV in that age group looked anything like that!)
Jo also wants a relationship based on someone loving the person that she is and not the surface she presents, despite knowing that the first impression will almost always be a physical judgement, hence her horror at the prospect of reuniting with her old lover after 25 years.
I see the journey Jo goes on almost like a hike through a thorny forest where she has to push aside the media images we’re fed, the mental attitudes that are bred in us from childhood and understand what drives her desire to be young and beautiful for longer. I wanted audience members to ask themselves afterwards ‘what’s wrong with looking our age? Why do I really feel the need to look younger? Who is that for?’ and if the answer is anything other than ‘me’ then that is a subject to be reassessed.
It’s perfectly valid that youth and beauty is equated with fitness, general well-being and sexiness. It’s not called the prime of life for nothing. Unfortunately, in the years that follow, the judgement we all receive is pretty unfair. And we’re all guilty of that judgementalness to some extent. As soon as we see a body which is untoned, overweight or aged we tend to make an enormous number of negative assumptions about the owner of that body: They’re past it, de-motivated, de-sexualised or maybe they’re people who dislike themselves or can’t accept themselves. Despite the fact that every individual knows they have their own reasons for the physical shape they’re in, how we love to point, laugh and judge!
Personally, I think the media exerts a criminal degree of influence, manipulating us with a constant stream of images of supposedly successful people and the ensuing downward slide of said ‘successes’ once those laughter lines start to show. Being young and beautiful is certainly not my definition of success. Contrary to what we are led to believe, I have always thought it must be a something of a plight to be a beautiful woman in Hollywood. Rather like the maiden celebrated for her beauty and virtue who will inevitably, as a consequence of those qualities, end up as dragon food!
Anyway, in the end, Jo comes to a clearing in the woods (so to speak) and has a much greater understanding of what she truly wants and why. Hopefully the audience goes away and looks at themselves with a bit more self-love and understanding too…..
Louise Jameson on Pulling Faces
To cut or not to cut, that is the big indulgent western world obsession…. ‘going under the knife’…..
‘Have you had work done?’ is the new compliment. We have become a culture obsessed with body image, and I include myself in that, hence the play, a comedy, which flags up to women of a certain age, the subtle (and not so subtle) pressures which influence their dangerous choices.