There is an endless stream of comment within the industry of the lack of roles for older women on our stages at the moment. No real surprise then that political activist and feminist comedienne Sandi Toksvig has gallantly ridden out to provide a platform to try and adjust the balance. It is sad to report however that for such an intelligent and witty lady to have penned this rather feeble and lazily written play of nonsense does her or her cause very little justice at all.
The message behind the piece is obvious and justified. The state of our nation that is able to forget our old people and lose sight of their contribution and value is a crisis and a scandal that must be addressed. The framing device with which Toksvig has chosen to give this message is far less effective.
Five residents of a care home are awaiting rescue as storm Vera approaches them with apparent biblical proportions. However it would appear that they have been forgotten and have been left to their own devices in their attempts to either stay safe or to make a break for some kind of misguided freedom. The only assistance on hand is that of an entirely unbelievable carer that would appear to fit every kind of attitude filled teenager stereotype in the manual.
The five residents all take it in turns to reveal something about themselves and about their past. Each has their carefully apportioned comedy moment with an equally measured amount of sentimentality. The touching moments are far and few between however in this great sandwich of caricature and stereotype and this is where Toksvig falls down, does anybody really speak like this in real life? Of course they don’t. Even the most absurd of comedies needs to be rooted in some kind of reality and both characterisation and situation in this case are woefully detached from any kind of reality that I know.
Most effective are Maggie McCarthy and Joanne Monro as sparring sisters May and June. Competitiveness and envy have masked each other’s views of the ultimately unfulfilled lives that they have each led. Rachel Davies makes a gallant effort at a likeably ditsy Maureen while Amanda Walker spends the most part mute with only flurries of dialogue as the inexplicable St Michael clinging on to a chest filled with sex aids. As Gloria, Sheila Reid gives a fairly uninteresting turn with striking similarities to her Benidorm character Madge. There is also an utterly nepotistic cameo from Toksvig’s son that brings nothing to the plot in any way.
There were of course others in the audience that were positively guffawing with laughter. For me though the only silver lining was the knowledge that it would end.