Soho Theatre, London – until 20 May 2017
How do you feel about ageing? Do you dread your body’s gradual deterioration, or do you look forward to not caring what others think whilst living a life of leisure? Do you worry about how you will be provided for in this era of low wages, no savings and deteriorating pensions?
Whatever your thoughts are about the inevitable march towards death, The Lounge is likely to touch on them in some way or another. Set in the lounge of a care home with characters ranging from residents to staff to hapless visitors, this three-hander is a funny and moving overview of attitudes.
The three performers employ an impressively transformative physicality to play multiple roles, of a range of ages. Lucinka Eisler as the ninety-seven year old Marsha subtly contorts herself to appear frail and older – a curl of the fingers, widening of the mouth and sloping shoulders are evident amongst other, smaller changes. She impressively maintains the posture’s intricacy for most of the performance. Giulia Innocenti and Dennis Herdman also play elderly characters, and quickly transition between them as needed. They’re all an exquisite example of transformational acting.
The script is a snapshot of a day – Marsha’s last, according the programme. It stays close to a linear structure but reality disintegrates as the day wears on. There are touches of magic realism, and plenty of humour. The flatmate stories from your youth will revisit you in your twilight years in communal housing, it seems. Though it’s funny, there’s also a sadness to the story – is this the best we can do for our elders?
The Lounge doesn’t provide answers or solutions to society’s shortcomings, nor is it graphic or tragic in its depictions. Though it easily could go in these directions, by not doing so it lacks obvious social commentary and is a gentler piece. But by the act of presenting the humanity of elderly people and those that care for them (both as a job and as family), it reminds us our inevitable fate within an infrastructure that is straining to cope with an ever-increasing ageing population.