Written by Ron Aldridge, this two-act comedy was first performed in 2001 at Eastbourne, directed by Aldridge himself. The original cast featured Carmen Silvera (‘Allo ‘Allo!), Judy Cornwell (Keeping Up Appearances), Brian Murphy (Man About the House) and Victor Spinettu (the three Beetles movies). This local production is directed by Steve Watts, with major props to Chris and Rebecca Gardner for lighting and stage management, respectively.
Every parent knows what that ‘difficult stage’ is like – when their kids are out drinking all night, hanging out with bad crowds, playing loud music, and not getting out of bed till 1 o’clock in afternoon. Sue (Chris Turvey) and Richard (Peter Farrin) are your typical middle-aged couple experiencing all of these problems, but not with a rebellious teenager – with Sue’s father, Gordon ‘Brooksie’ Brooks (Mike Chappie)!
Much of the humour is derived from its simplicity: an elderly man, coping with the loss of his beloved wife, determined to stay as young as he feels for as long as he feels. However, a fair deal of laughter also comes from Brooksie’s ‘bad crowd’ – Tom (Nick Turvey), a ‘miserable, complaining sod’ and former RAF pilot, Julia (Chrissie Blow), Tom’s dull yet kindly fiancée, and Rose (Jenny Bond), Julia’s lonely best friend.
The romantic undercurrent between Brooksie and Rose is plain to see. Needless to say, opposites do attract. However, Brooksie struggles with unresolved feelings towards his late wife Grace (Denise Farrow), who appears to him on three occasions, encouraging him to move on. Whether Grace is presented as a ghostly figure or as a representation of Brooksie’s conscious mind is really for the audience to decide, and I would like to take this opportunity to praise Chris Gardner for his effective use of lighting to convey this.
Without giving away too much of the ending, Brooksie and Rose’s tentative romance is left with the potential to become something deeper. Whether or not they decide to peruse a more serious relationship doesn’t really matter in my opinion, because the moral of the story is to ‘grab life by the horns’ and make the most of the time you’ve got.
For me, the story itself is a clever subversion of what modern society and culture has deemed ‘appropriate’ in terms of how people of certain age groups should behave. The dynamics between Brooksie and Richard are not like those of a typical father and son-in-law relationship – more of a role reversal – whereas the more patient Sue has adopted a more sympathetic, almost motherly approach.
The story also explores a number of emotional themes that I myself have rarely observed before in a farcical stage comedy, including loneliness, overcoming grief, struggling with the confines of society, feeling lost in a changing world, and that yearning to recapture one’s youth.
Overall, I truly enjoyed this production. I praise the director, the actors for their eloquence, Chris Gardner’s ingenious use of lighting to create symbolism, and Rebecca Gardner’s constructive use of the space available to create Richard and Sue’s home, specifically the lounge/dining area.
Performance reviewed: Saturday 27th May
Reviewed by Jack Brading
Catch the remaining performances on Sunday 28th, Monday 29th, and Tuesday 30th May. Book online now!