Old age is the final war that most of us are called on to fight. Jimmy’s battle is his second great conflict. His first was as a tail-gunner in thirty missions during the Second World War – his current one against hardened arteries, prostate cancer and a series of mini-strokes that have robbed him of much of his mobility and dignity.
He ekes out his time in an old peoples’ home tended by newcomer David who is fighting battles of his own; engagements that have left him rebuilding his life as a care-assistant seeking new meaning to his existence after redundancy and a failed marriage.
At first victim to Jimmy’s frustrated baiting the two come to form a closer relationship built around reminisces of his RAF service and particular memories of wartime companions who failed to survive.
Tim Dantay and Paul Greenwood play David and Jimmy in this moving and effective two-hander from TV writer William Ivory (Common As Muck, The Sins, A Thing Called Love). In this his second stage play and the mid-point in a “Southwell Trilogy” inspired by his Nottinghamshire birthplace and, in this case, his father’s wartime service in Bomber Command and the trials of old age, William Ivory has created a memorable drama.
Greenwood’s Jimmy is a beautifully studied portrayal of decrepit old age in which infirmity and the close inevitability of death combine with haunting memories of youth and, in particular, a miraculous escape from the fate that befell the rest of his crew. Dantay’s David struggles to maintain a sense of self while his world crumbles around him and the depths of his faith are tested by his relationship with his octogenarian patient. Two powerful performances directed by Matt Aston combine to make one totally engaging night in the theatre.
Full marks to Laura McEwen and James Farncombe for an extremely effective stage and lighting design and particular for the use of the overhead fan in the flashback sequences, while Damian Coldwell’s sound graphically illustrated the terrors of a bombing raid over wartime Germany.