Plays aimed at older patrons tend to either be farcical or terribly old-fashioned offering the audience a world that they can relate to through rose tinted spectacles. John Retallack's new play avoids all of the usual pitfalls and deals with long term bereavement, broken hearts and loneliness encountered by four elderly citizens who meet at a tea dance.
Sylvia (Linda Broughton) who once ran a dance school in Oldham recalls her loveless marriage to cad and dancing partner, Pierre. Audrey (Anita Wright) realises that she is ready to love and cha cha again after exorcising ghosts from her past. Victor (Graham Bill) loved his late wife so much that he finds it impossible to let go of her. Roy (Gilbert Wynne) is looking to recapture his youthful days through dance, conversation and friendship. Each likeable character takes the audience on a lovely journey which although painful and slightly maudlin never fails to engage.
Nicola Weeks, Joanna Morton, Matthew Day and Ashley Green play the couples in their youthful days through the power of movement. They have no dialogue but manage to convey feelings of love, sex and companionship with real feeling. The four leads portray the sense of emptiness that grief brings and also feelings of displacement in a world that has moved on leaving them all behind. Watching each of them connect at the dance realising that they are not alone is delightful to watch.
Broughton provides many funny moments as Sylvia finds the strength to move on via talking to her dead husband as if were still there. Bill conveys poignancy as Victor tries to let go of his one true love. The audience on the night I attended really felt his pain.
Retallack's script contains many funny lines but lapses into sentimentality to frequently. Thankfully the cast inject pathos into the proceedings which dilutes this sugary approach.
Jack Murphy and Retallack's direction is at times slow paced. During the first act the play shuffles underneath a glitter ball, leaving the audience requiring a foxtrot to get things moving. Thankfully the second act jives into life providing more rhythm.
If you enjoyed the recent TV series Strictly Come Dancing and you want to see the faces and souls behind the satin and sequins, this won't get you into a spin but it will leave you gently stirred.
- Glenn Meads