REALLY OLD, LIKE FORTY FIVE To 20 April.

London.

REALLY OLD, LIKE FORTY FIVE
by Tamsin Oglesby.

Cottesloe Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 20 April 2010.
7.30pm 11-13, 16-20, 22-27 Feb, 1-3, 8, 9, 15-17 March, 9, 10, 15-17 April.
2.30pm 13 Feb, 3, 9, 16 March, 10, 17, 20 April.
Audio-described 26, 27 Feb.
Captioned 17 March.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/tickets
Review: Carole Woddis 6 February.

New Old comedy.
Getting old is no joke and the fact that there are more of us getting old and living longer is fast becoming no joke at all. What is society to do with this topsy-turvy demographic where the old are likely to outstrip the young in years to come?

Daring of Tamsin Oglesby therefore to try to fashion a comedy out of this turn of events. That she is only partly successful should not detract from her attempt, which emerges as a darkly, at times, scary exploration of what to do with pensioners.

Like all good satirists, Oglesby takes the present – in this case actual Japanese research into using robots as nurses caring for the elderly – and pushes it into futuristic prediction with monstrous and hilarious results.

One of the play’s high spots indeed is Mimi, a robotic nurse played with blissful precision by Michela Meazza, all angulated limbs, white face and scarlet lips, who comes to represent the most loving being in Lyn’s (Judy Parfitt) Alzheimer-struck life. Stroke Mimi’s arms and she starts to purr like a cat, reflecting her patients’ feelings to them.

Really Old, Like Forty Five, however, is not made for laughs only. Like a Dr Strangelove for the elderly, it carries a warning and sense of threat. We see government scientists and researchers hell-bent on solving the problem of the elderly through drugs and a perverted sense of `quality of life’. Oglesby turns today’s palliatives and its jargon on its head and comes up with a chilling forecast. As a government wonk trying to introduce lanes to streets as a way of reclaiming them from irritatingly slow-walking OAPs, Paul Ritter gives a demonically brilliant performance, exemplifying the madness of officialdom.

Oglesby, who has tackled controversial subjects, such as cosmetic surgery in Two Lips, Indifferent Red, succeeds wonderfully in the surreal department. Strangely for one who has tackled youth in the past, she’s less successful in her generational, naturalistic scenes.

Anna Mackmin’s direction too lacks nuance and timing. But Ritter and Marcia Warren as Alice, Lyn’s benign, slightly daffy, perennially optimistic sister, are total joys.

Cathy: Amelia Bullimore.
Alice: Marcia Warren.
Lyn: Judy Parfitt.
Dylan: Thomas Jordan.
Robbie: Gawn Grainger.
Monroe: Paul Ritter.
Millie: Lucy May Barker.
Mike: Paul Bazely.
Amanda: Tanya Franks.
Mimi: Michela Meazza.

Director: Anna Mackmin.
Designer: Lez Brotherston.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: The Ringham Brothers.
Video Maark Grimmer with Lysander Ashton.
Movement Director: Scarlett Mackmin.
Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.

2010-02-10 09:01:11

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