Still a lot of life in the Wolsey’s old actors home
Forever Young by Erik Gedeon, adapted by Giles Croft & Stefan Bednarczyk, New Wolsey Theatre, until March 17
To the list of life’s certainties, death and taxes, there is the increasing likelihood of survival to an infirm old age. The opening sequence of Erik Gedeon’s song drama Forever Young is Godot-like as the characters shuffle onto the stage in slow motion, supervised by the scary Sister George (Georgina White). But forget dull or boring: the thing is an absolute hoot. Each time Sister George leaves the stage the fun begins.
In this most fluid of dramas, Director Giles Croft has the actors playing themselves in old age, using their own names. It is 2050 and the New Wolsey is a home for retired actors, Claire Thompson’s set portraying appropriately shabby posters and memorabilia from bygone shows.
The brilliant Stefan Bednarczyk (Musical Director and co-adaptor) is at the piano throughout accompanying his fellow inmates in irreverent and hilarious enactments of their past actorial skills, together with songs ranging from I Got You Babe to Sex Bomb and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. John Elkington performs a fast-paced medley combining 31 songs in a single number, while Mark Jardine and Claire Storey enact a magnificent, arthritically-constrained version of Torvill and Dean’s Bolero.
Equally funny is a black joke about artificial limbs, which should have been horrific but in this context elicited sympathetic humour, enhanced by Rebecca Little’s rendering of Aqua’s Euro-hit, Barbie Girl. The Laurel and Hardy skit by Marcus Powell and John Elkington was masterly but disastrous for Mr Powell’s goldfish and Mr Elkington’s trademark hat.
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Forever Young has set new theatrical records for repeat visits and the New Wolsey audience embraced it with gusto, giving the ensemble finale a standing ovation. The message was enjoy life while you can, have fun and grow old disgracefully. As they say in the trade - kill to get a ticket!
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