Saturday, December 9

Act Your Age Writing Festival – Hope Mill Theatre

Douglas Adams wrote, ‘The main thing that flying requires is the ability to throw yourself at the ground and miss.’ Trying to fly was a theme that ran through the three plays on show on the final night of this ‘Act Your Age’ new writing season hosted by Hope Mill Theatre. All the plays had characters that were mostly aged over 40 and were performed as rehearsed reading radio plays.

In the play Birdman by Wendy Storer a chicken farmer and part time inventor, called Richard Head, known as Dick (Steve Titley), wants to fly. He thinks he can help solve the environmental crisis by inventing a way for humans to be like birds. Using chicken feathers and a Heath Robinson style contraption of skipping ropes and wood he plans to take to the skies.

His wife, who is enjoying French lessons with her teacher without learning much of the language, thinks he is mad, and she hopes to gain financially from, what she thinks, will be his kamikaze effort.

This was the most fun play of the night, and it was energetically performed by the actors. It was very entertaining and as a play it took off and landed safely.

The Caff by Giancarlo Gemim was a morosely comic piece about the onset of change. It reminded me slightly of the TV comedy Early Doors in its tone and it had a similar dry humour about it.

It was set in a run-down, old-fashioned cafe, being run out of business by the corporate run coffee chain that has moved in up the road and taken away its custom.

It is run by an opera obsessive called Guilio who pines for the days when his cafe was at the centre of the community. The conflict between old and new values, the past and the future is essentially what this play is about.

Guilio realises that if his cafe is to take off and become part of the community once more, he is going to have to think outside the box which leads to an innovative deal with the local health centre. An agreement is struck so that patients can wait in his cafe and speakers are hooked up so that they will know when they can see the doctor.

The final play, Open Meeting Closed by Michael Perlmutter, was quite a disjointed affair.

It was set in an all-female Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and the women want to fly away from their problems and addictions.

Unfortunately, the play lacked focus and sharpness. Like a drunk it seemed to stagger around with no particular direction. It just seemed a bit confused.

The set up was good, Helen (Joanne Barker) has been sleeping with the other women’s husbands, so they have tied her up to teach her lesson. One of the women has a Taser and she decides to use it in order to take revenge. There are some nice comic moments but given the subject matter of addiction and betrayal the play lacked the emotional depth to make it work as a whole.

It was well acted, and we were told at the start of the evening that one of the actresses had leapt in at the last minute and it was the first time she had acted since her schooldays.

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening, and Hope Mill Theatre should be congratulated on hosting the event that older people have a voice produced by Act Your Age Showcase.

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 6th September 2021