Who says the Swiss lack a sense of humour? Erik Gedeon’s Forever Young at the Nottingham Playhouse certainly tickles the funny bones of a British audience for all its Teutonic oddness.
Gideon’s “song drama” sets out to tell stories using a collage of musical arrangements of modern, jazz and classical tunes fused with observational comedy and is said to be currently taking Europe by storm. It has been in the repertoire of Germany’s Thalia Theatre since 2000, has won Norway’s top award for comedy and there are productions planned in Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
Set in a home for retired actors forty years in the future it makes a virtue of casting a crop of popular Playhouse performers as decrepit versions of themselves. Chairbound and moribund in the presence of the forbidding carer Sister Sara (Sara Poyzer) they stagger unsteadily into life whenever she leaves the stage to belt out a succession of pop hits from “Barbie Girl” and “I Got you Babe” to “You Can Leave your Hat On” and “Respect”.
But these rebellious distractions are trumped with reminders of their own mortality when Sister Sarah returns with songs such as “Silver Hair, Trembling Hands” and “Dying”, all penned by the author, that give a Monty Pythonish kick to the proceedings.
Rebecca Little, Jason Pennycooke, John Elkington, Mark Jardine and Claire Storey have obviously all signed a pledge to grown old disgracefully and bring some wonderful and well observed physical touches to their geriatric selves, with Stefan Bednarczyk marvellously mute and expressionless for most of his performance at the piano, doubling up as the Musical Director.
There are moments in the first half when, for all the gems of performance scattered along the way, it does feel a little like an overlong Harry Enfield sketch that has lost its way but the second half makes up for it with more in the way of character development, dialogue and robust action.
- Nick Brunger