Date: 6 march 2015
Forever Young is a musical and a black comedy set in a nursing home where the residents are all retired actors. The play is based around each of the characters and their own quirks and traits – it’s rather like a collection of musical numbers punctuated by short comedy sketches.
Ironically, the play opens very quietly, the only noise being a clinical looking Sister George (Georgina White) who whistles the Kill Bill tune while slapping rubber gloves against her thighs and spraying air freshener around the residents lounge. Slowly each of the ageing thespians are revealed to us as they make their comical entries onto the stage. First up is Mr Bednarczyk, who is the musical director as well as a resident at the home – he reluctantly takes his seat at the grand piano to provide the soundtrack for the other characters to make their ceremonial entries on to the stage.
The cast are all superb, under the careful direction of Giles Croft and the clever choreography of Adele Parry, they all stagger to life and deliver some cracking numbers once Sister George exits the stage and closes the door. Mr Frater’s gait and word finding difficulties are highly convincing and Ms Little’s confused stare and disinhibited outbursts are all believable traits of somebody with dementia. When a conflict breaks out between Mr Frater and Mr Elkington, beside from being the slowest fight in history, it is the greatest source of humour for the audience – they roared with laughter on the night that I attended.
Musical comedy highlights are a plenty – the two romantics Ms Darcy and Mr Superville sing a sweet version of I Got You Babe as well as trying to recreate Torvill and Dean’s 1984 Olympic winning Bolero. Tiara and lace clad Ms Little also sends up a version of Aqua’s Barbie Girl with a prosthetic limb and uses her fox stole as an air guitar for an entertaining version of I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The play also harbours some tender moments between the characters – when Ms Little passes a tissue to Mr Frater we can only imagine that he is thinking about lost youth and love. Ms Darcy’s version of the Nirvana classic, Smells Like Teen Spirit, also reminds us of the loneliness associated with getting older.
The production is loaded with plenty of highly amusing comic sequences and characters that you could watch all day – however, there isn’t much of a plot to push it along and so it does feel like it drags at times. Nevertheless this didn’t appear to hinder the audiences enjoyment judging by their applause and squeals of laughter.
Forever Young celebrates the lives and loves of older adults and blows the assumption that people in nursing homes are just waiting for their final curtain call. As well as being a musical comedy on the surface – this play actually makes a valid commentary on the way that we treat and view older people. This talented cast of seven certainly prove that old age can be a laughing matter.
Forever Young runs at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday March 21st 2015