Review: Spring/The Last Dance (The Theatre Room)

Sally Faulkner stars in this latest double bill from Frontier Theatre Productions

The ambition of Frontier Theatre Productions is entirely admirable. It was founded by James Roose-Evans to create theatre for the Third Age, actors and writers in their 60s and 70s who find their careers in abeyance and their concerns neglected.

Similar initiatives in dance have produced revelatory work. Sadler’s Wells commissioned Jonathan Burrows to produce a piece with older dancers as part of their Elixir Festival that still makes me smile when I remember it: it uncovered a wonderfully rich seam of resonance about the distance between older people’s feelings and the perception of them by others.

But this double bill of plays, Frontier’s second venture, has the opposite effect. The works simply aren’t interesting enough to make much of a point about anything. Spring, by Susan Hill, at least has the benefit of energy thanks to an endearing performance by recent drama school graduate Portia Van de Braam as a young girl, struggling to make sense of her life, but revelling in moments in the sun, on a cliff top, where she tells her woes to a silent old woman.

All Sally Faulkner has to do is react, which she does with some skill, her benevolent smile encouraging the speaker on as she says "I’d like to see my future, but I’m afraid to." I thought perhaps they were the same woman at different times, but if so, the twist was never revealed.

Faulkner has more to do but makes less impact in Mitch Hooper’s The Last Dance, which shows a married couple on another cliff top, looking out to sea and over the "magnificent shipwreck of a life shared." She is angrily facing death, estranged from her children and wracked with guilt over her many affairs. David Mallinson plays her serene husband, who has no regrets. A lot is said, with elegant grace by him; she has an almost impossible part. And for all its apparent bravery, the play struggles to get beyond cliché and platitude although the long running joke in which the couple strive to remember the name of a long-dead actor and the film he performed in, is a joy.

Spring and The Last Dance run at The Theatre Room until 5 November.