Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
There’s a hilarious comedy at the Yvonne Arnaud this week. I hardly expected to laugh and cry so much on a Tuesday night, at a play about aging people marginalised in a private nursing home – and most of the tears were of laughter!
We meet Diana Trent (Nichola Auliffe) grumpily breakfasting in ‘Bayview’ Home for the Elderly, and in the first few minutes of the play we quickly realise that she is more than a match for the frankly creepy staff who try to patronise and control her.
With a quick-fire series of withering glares and killer put-downs Diana shows her contempt for Harvey, the inadequate, narcissistic manager and Jane, his assistant, whose inept attempts to cajole her like a fractious child she elbows aside, metaphorically and physically (making excellent use of her walking stick at key moments!) Her view of aging as a bad joke played on humanity, her cynicism and her indomitable energy are an inspiration to all of us!
Enter Tom (David Benson), a new and, in his own way, an equally rebellious inmate, and a story begins to unfold, as Diana finds herself and romance is born, without sentimentality or euphemism, at Bayview. The end is surprising – though, on reflection, to be expected.
This is an amazing piece of entertainment, successful on all levels. The strong cast play perfect stereotypes: Nichola Auliffe the feisty ex-war correspondent who won’t lie down and die quietly; Jeffrey Holland as Tom, who rebels by retreating ad lib into rich private fantasies; Samuel Collings as Harvey, the vain, neurotic manager, whose body language and sometimes acrobatic stage presence is horribly mesmerising and Emily Pithon, who embodies all badly educated carers as his pathetic, wheedling, downtrodden admirer, Jane. Diana’s niece, Sarah, is played vigorously by Joanna Bending as a chip off the old block that is her aunt.
Michael Aitkins originally conceived the idea for Waiting for God as a stage play in 1990 but instead it became a successful TV series between 1990 and 1994. Now Aitkins has revived and rewritten it for the modern stage, bringing it up to date with sparkling, witty dialogue and a fast pace, reinforcing the attitudes that the aging generation of today recognise: resilience, self-respect and a refusal to give up life without a struggle or to lose their sense of humour.
Director James Seabrook has produced a winner – do go and enjoy it!
This review will also be published on the theatre review page of Essential Surrey online magazine