Old people, eh? A bunch of forgetful wasters who always have a hatchet to unbury or a cup of tea going cold. At least that’s what you might think if you came to see Giles Cole’s double-bill
Some of the plot lacks clout, some of the acting is less believable, but it’s gratifying to see older actors being written for and the theme of ageing explored
The two interlinked short plays explore how the elderly can feel a loss of purpose, suffer from forgetfulness and regrets, and have a pressing need to confront significant others with what they know before they either forget it altogether or die.
In The Romance of the Century, an elderly, well-to-do couple, exchange spiky dialogue on a small stage set as a drawing room. The pair turn out to be Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson, both imagined by Cole towards the end of their lives. Edward, known as ‘David’, has grown to resent Wallace and threatens to show her up by behaving badly during the Queen’s impending visit.
As the two-dimensional Queen arrives, David wants to take this last chance before death to express his regret to her. James Woolley convinces as the charming, charismatic ex-King in exile and the scene is set for a dramatic climax. However the Duke’s confession to a reluctant ‘Lilibet’ has none of the expected wow factor. It’s as though the play had the potential to be an interesting insight into a major historical event but in the end had to mind it’s language. Maybe David couldn’t pay the price of honesty? It’s left unclear and is a missed dramatic opportunity.
The second play, The Weatherman, is a conversation between two elderly male friends over their regular evening tipple. Alf has forgotten the name of a TV weatherman and, annoyed with himself, enlists Charlie’s help in memory jogging. Again the set is sparse, just two chairs and a drinks table in an intimate setting. The focus is on the dialogue. Conversation turns to relationships and follows a tricky path. Alf confronts Charlie for having had an affair with his wife, wanting his friend to know that he knows, before it becomes, like the weatherman’s name, something he won’t remember anymore. David Henry playing Alf gives a particularly nuanced and poignant performance, making his unburdening and concomitant forgiveness credible. Charlie’s denial is less credible.
In all, the show lasts an hour and engages the audience, sometimes more, sometimes less, throughout. Some of the plot lacks clout, some of the acting is less believable, but it’s gratifying to see older actors being written for and the theme of ageing explored.