There’s Life in the Old Dog yet

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 11th July, 2012

Ron Aldridge’s comedy is set firmly in the middle class sitcom world familiar from so many TV shows. You wouldn’t be surprised to find Terry and June living next door or George and Mildred across the road. It begins with a husband and wife arguing about someone always being out late, never getting up in the mornings, hanging out with bad company – we are led to believe they have a wayward teenager on their hands. At last, the delinquent in question finds his way home, dancing his way through the front door in motorcycle leathers. He takes off his helmet and lo! It’s not a teenager after all. ‘Tis Melvyn Hayes no less – the wife’s father. This nifty twist led me to think this was going to be a play that touches on issues of caring for the elderly – the tensions that may arise when they move in with their offspring, and the alternatives that are available.

Unfortunately not.

The play is too rooted in its sitcom milieu to glance at social issues and so my expectations, once excited were confounded. That is not to say this is not an enjoyable couple of hours. It does what it does rather well.

Brooksie (Hayes) fills his daughter’s house with friends from the Over 60s club. Preparations are underway for the wedding of two of the members and so Brooksie and the more uptight Rose (Katy Manning off of Doctor Who) have to declare a moratorium on their bickering and squabbling. The irony is that these two are obviously more attracted to each other than the bride and groom to be.

Hayes throws himself into the performance. He falls over, rolls off the sofa and generally bounds around in a manner that is exhausting to behold. It is a star turn that belies his years, well befitting the theme of the play: old age is there to be enjoyed. Katy Manning provides capable support, even if her character is berating him one second and then giggling her head off at him the next. It is an inconsistency in the writing. I could also have done without the mawkish scenes where the ghost of Brooksie’s wife appears to him with life coaching advice. Such a saintly, condescending woman. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bumped her off. Hayes would be able to convey the pathos and the heartbreak with the occasional look at her photograph. That would have been enough.

There is a very funny scene where the gang play Trivial Pursuit and a sliced bread fight that seems a little incongruous but is amusing, nevertheless. John D Collins is boisterous good fun as grumpy old ranter Tom who goes through an epiphany on his stag night but the show is essentially a vehicle for Melvyn Hayes, who does bewildered and hungover to perfection.

About williamstafford

Novelist (Brough & Miller, sci fi, historical fantasy) Theatre critic and Actor - I can often be found walking the streets of Stratford upon Avon in the guise of the Bard! View all posts by williamstafford

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