Park Theatre, London – until 15 June 2019
Those over a certain age will recognise the patronising tone, the condescension. Where once they had been respected by the younger generation they are now treated with disregard and spoken to as though they are imbecilic children.
Ageing in modern Western society can be terribly cruel. So well done playwright Tom Glover for coming up with a piercing satire that gives a voice to the angry, frustrated and abandoned ‘later livers’ among us.
Beneath the Blue Rinse, running at London’s Park Theatre – along with a Glover short called The Answer – is a morality tale where the elderly get their own back on a society that would rather forget they existed.
Anyone would think that Glover is leading the battle-cry for his own generation but, amazingly, he’s far off retirement age. Yet, despite being a mere stripling, he nails the seething resentment of today’s elderly who are dumped in care homes, suffer abuse, ignored by their families and snubbed by society at large.
Beneath the Blue Rinse is a hilariously funny hostage drama peppered with Glover’s wicked, provocative and well-observed dialogue that both shocks and entertains. I didn’t stop laughing throughout its 75 minutes.
And the idea of Age UK having a militant arm, determined to right wrongs with brute force, is inspired and certainly worth them thinking about.
Slimeball alarm salesman, Simon Sudgebury, has wheedled his way into the home of dithering, 75-year-old, Flora Parkin, intent on collecting a £20,000 bonus by flogging her a crap “modular intruder alarm” and making his sales target.
Her home is a homage to brown with shelves and walls groaning with tat accumulated over a lifetime. Flora, dressed in beige, is the archetypal victim for an unscrupulous shyster. He patronises her, talks to her as though she’s both deaf and doolally.
But not everything is what it seems and soon Simon wishes that he’d stayed in the office – particularly as his colleague, Tony, had visited a few days previously and hasn’t been seen since.
He’s totally wrong-footed when dear, sweet Flora, suddenly goes on the attack, handcuffs him to a chair and tells him he will be the next victim of a terrorist cell run by the more mature.
“They are an extremist action group to force people to care more about the elderly! People will sit up and take notice of us…once we start the killing spree,” she tells him.
As she waits for her toyboy lover, George, to return home from Morrisons, Flora gives Simon a taste of what old people are subjected to, and its not pretty.
“I never thought torture would appeal to me but it beats bridge hands down,” says Flora with a mad glint in her eye.
Ian Redford’s George, dressed in combat fatigues and Balaclava, makes an impressive entrance, bursting into the flat through the haze of a smoke bomb, a light machine and waving an assault rifle.
“This is all very exhilarating but it doesn’t half play havoc with my arthritis,” he admits.
Sex-made Flora and George, who keep a cupboard full of sex toys, are finding the whole hostage drama a bit of a turn-on but the pair are also intent on championing the cause of society’s forgotten pensioners.
But will they go through with their plan to spill blood for the campaign?
Marlene Sidaway, as Flora, has the meatiest dialogue but spends a lot of the time directing it at the audience rather than engaging with her astonished hostage, who can’t quite believe what is happening to him.
But, better, is Ian Redford’s engaging turn as George, the Phoenix Thunder, who trained as a (reluctant) assassin by working in an abattoir. “I was the Hannibal Lecter of the bovine world!” he boasts.
George is a hoot and seasoned RSC actor Redford delivers some cracking one-liners that not only have the audience in stitches but earns the empathy from its elderly members.
We’ve all met people like Simon and Kevin Tomlinson captures every despicable characteristic.
He suffers for his art as Simon and I think there were some theatre-goers last night who felt nothing but admiration for his demise at the hands of his geriatric captors.
Will Beneath the Blue Rinse change the public’s attitudes towards the elderly? I’d like to think so – one audience at a time.
After the interval Wilkinson was back with Abigail Hood, playing Clive and Jenny Withering, a carpet salesman and his wife, from 1973, in Tom Glover’s fascinating and funny one-act play, The Answer.
Clive’s splashed out £70 on a new gadget. “This is the future,” he declares as he introduces his wife to the Ansafone.
What’s the point of it, she wants to know. What, indeed. Was this the start of our global neuroses and paranoia about communication?
Was it that long ago? Life seemed so much simpler then when we weren’t all umbilically tied to our phones.
Jenny’s terrified this new contraption can walk across the room and answer the phone, the technology baffles and mystifies her. Clive assures her that now they need never miss a call but she’s not convinced.
This little gem will have you laughing at the absurdity and nostalgia of it all.
Beneath The Blue Rinse/ The answer runs in the Park90 until June 15.
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