Silver Linings

‘Silver Linings’ is a delightful comedy on aging from the pen of British-Danish playwright and lawyer, Sandi Toksvig. Sandi is known for her stand-up comedy, radio and especially being the new host of TV’s ‘QI’ – receiving only 40% of Stephen Fry’s fee. Not surprisingly she is a joint founder of the Women’s Equality Party. The play had its world premiere only 18-months ago at Kingston upon Thames.

This play is written in two genres. The first Act was hilarious, whereas the second Act was quite dark – but still with a blend of humour – as we learnt about each resident’s past. This very topical subject of an uncaring old folks’ home can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, in Guildford every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 8.00 pm until 13th October. There is one Sunday matinée at 2.00 pm on the 30th September, however, sorry but it is already sold out. Be warned, the weekday evening performances are also selling VERY quickly. The dialogue was a little ripe at times, but appropriate to the situation.

The scene: is the Silver Retirement Home in Gravesend, the weather has just turned foul.

Incidentally, only this week, as though on cue from the script, on the shore at Gravesend, a beluga whale ‘Benny’ was found there, eating and frolicking in the Thames.

The set: is an impressive lounge room. It was designed and solidly constructed by Keith and Heather Abbott. The room has oak panelling on the walls, with display cabinets built into it. The units contained a fine collection of pottery and china (props by Marion West and Joan Scafe). The rear wall has a patio door with a garden trellis outside. A passage at the back of the room led to the bedrooms, and a pair of scarlet velour curtains concealed the cellar stairs.

Edi Boross and Geoff Holt were responsible for the top rate lighting and sound design, with the operation by Edi Boross and Carlise Kearney. The storm’s combined lightning and thunder effects were particularly good, one of the best I have seen. The sitting room lighting had a warm, incandescent glow, and a central five-lamp pendant hung from the ceiling centre.

The trellis seen through the windows had a realistic rippling light effect, as the rain ran down the windows and the sun reflected from the waters surrounding the Home. Clever touch.Stage managers, Morgan Hyde and Marion West would be doing overtime after the show with the ‘special’ props.

Amending the words of Bulwer-Lytton slightly, ‘It was a dark and stormy morning’ outside the Silver Retirement Home in Gravesend. In the second-floor lounge, clutching her torch, is Maureen (Anita Bound, who looked very like UK comedienne, Sue Pollard), recalling her long-gone days in the theatre. Her elderly but most lucid friend, chirpy cockney Gloria (Kerry Goode) feels around in the dark for the light switch, just as a massive flash of lightning illuminates the room. Sitting in their favourite chairs, they query where matron and the staff have gone.
     The floods continue rising. The highly religious, but dippy widow, June (Veronica Fourie) wants to go for a swim, but thankfully her acerbic lesbian sister, May (Joan Scafe) bluntly tells her of the impending danger. Donned in a massive black bin bag, Hope (Gail Lusted) an inexperienced, temporary local social worker staggers in to save them.
     There is a sudden power failure, and when the lights come back on, a strange young man Jed (Morgan Hyde) is searching for things to loot. A fracas takes place.
       On searching the house, Hope finds an enigmatic resident, St. Michael (Colleen Hopkins) whose brain ranges from genius to rough sex.
       With two residents in wheelchairs and no official organised rescue plan, their escape seems doomed. The friends unite and discuss their lost loves, regrets and missed opportunities.

When this play premiered in the UK, it received poor reviews, for having little humour and poor pace. I expected the worst, but with director Dale James’ decades of theatre experience, backed by a group of Perth best – dare I say? – senior female actors, whose ages according (to the Bible) are approaching an expiry of three score years and ten, yet this play just rocked. The wild and mad character of Hope, the social worker, was an ingenious way of lifting the pace and excitement – well done Gail.

There were a couple of laughs a minute in the first Act. There were the odd minor fluffs, but as I can personally confirm, most senior citizen has trouble learning a single person’s name; so, to learn huge chunks of comic script must have been a major challenge for the whole cast. There were dozens of one-liners and raunchy double-entendres, which were perfectly delivered by the pan-faced actors, but being perhaps too subtle, many slipped the audience; one such phrase was ‘thank goodness I didn’t get a full English breakfast’ which calls for a knowledge of such a meal’s contents, before being placed in context.

The personalities of the very different characters were captured perfectly, with expressions and mannerisms that will bring a broad grin. Superb team work. Sadly ‘Gravesend’ is the ideal place for this ‘end of life’ play.

This very well acted show gave the audience two first-class plays for the price of one. A hilarious comedy, with a poignant, instantly recognisable, group of old ladies, who have been forgotten by everyone. Looks like it will be a well-deserved sell-out.