The superficially wispy plot of this Noel Coward play hides a darkly comic and sharp take on ageing and the lives we live.
Set in a retirement home for old actresses, the cast features a number of local performers who haven’t tread the boards for a while, with an estimated total age of over 1000 years – and it was experience, rather than dotage, that showed.
With the core eight residents almost permanently on stage, this is genuinely an ensemble piece but Sue Newstead and Mel Sessions edged into leading roles as a pair of steely old stagehands reigniting an old feud when their retirement brings them back together.
Gill Tichborne’s exclamatory Irish actress is overly melodramatic and a cheap stereotype – which is what makes her performance so enjoyable – and a sharp contrast to June Gentle’s sensitive and devastating portrayal of Alzheimer’s sufferer Myrtle.
This is a bittersweet play, with plenty of laughs and a good deal of pathos. We see the decline of these once-bright stars and feel their disappointment, but we also see their resolve in resetting their expectations and finding new ways to live. When one is offered the chance of a new life away from the home, it is both upsetting and absolutely right that she turns it down.
Cassie Tillett’s direction could do with a little more urgency (as could the scene changes), but it feels shorter that its two and half-hour run. This is a surprisingly powerful piece and a great chance to see some experienced talent back on stage.
Waiting In The Wings continues until July 20, 2019 at the Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich