Friday, 17 February 2017
Despite a terrific cast of golden girls, Sandi Toksvig’s play looking at life inside a care home fails to shine
Written by Georgina Brown
It may not be official but, as far as I’m concerned, Sandi Toksvig is a National Treasure. As if cheering us all up with her wicked wit were not enough, she recently got serious and set up the Women’s Equality Party. Tireless, her very latest project has been ‘to write a play for the wonderful mature actresses in this country’. The witless result,Silver Lining, set in an old people’s home in, er, Gravesend is, frankly, a fate worse than death.
The day room of the silver retirement home is nice and airy, with huge sash windows, through which mighty lightning flashes and thunder claps. Gloria (Sheila Reid) is evidently refusing to grow old gracefully. She sports a leopard-print jumpsuit, pink trainers and matching iPhone with which she keeps her nephew, Nathan, abreast of the river rising outside. ‘Just think, if I hadn’t given up drinking and smoking, I’d have missed all this,’ she quips, ever the rebel. Possibly the one-liners sounded livelier on the page.
The flooding, it seems, is of Archers proportions. And possibly as interminable. The residents prepare for being evacuated. When a young black woman named Hope (Keziah Joseph), rushes in, it seems their wishes have come true. But she is merely seeking shelter from the storm. As we wait (Waiting For Godot is action-packed by comparison) for someone to turn up, we get to know the women.
‘I’d like one last shag,’ says Gloria. ‘I don’t even sleep with my teeth,’ says may (Maggie McCarthy), the most engaging character. She worked for BBC radio, and fell in love with Peggy, ‘half a century too soon’.
‘Where were you when Peggy died?’ may asks her sister, June (Joanna Monro), with whom she shares a room at the home. It turns out that June’s life with Ronald, and her daughter Alyson, was not the happy one she had pretended it to be: Ronald had bullied her; Alyson never liked her. Still, not quite enough to explain why she is a racist, kleptomaniac Christian.
Gloria, who is hoarding tablets so that she can finish herself off, wishes she had had kids; Maureen (Rachel Davies) wishes she hadn’t. A spectral woman (Amanda Walker) in a wheelchair suffering from dementia whom nobody knows (they call her St Michael, the label on her dressing gown) suddenly discovers her voice and announces she can ‘fart the Marseilles’. Oh dear. A terrific cast prove splendidly game. But by the time one of the characters comes up with the ludicrous idea of building a raft using the water containers and the coffee table, I was praying for a tsunami to whoosh away the lot of them. All clouds, no silver lining.
On tour until 11 April, English Touring Theatre: 020-7450 1990, www.ett.org.uk