Forever Young @ Nottingham Playhouse

As part of Light Night 2010, the Playhouse is presenting ‘Forever Young’, the story of retired thespians of our generation reminiscing and rebelling in their theatre come nursing home. With ferocity enough to match the warring Varsity supporters, our own opinions were starkly divided. So in the interest of balance, equality and receiving more free tickets to the Playhouse, here are both sides of the debate that followed.

S- First off, the concept itself is very innovative and capitalises on current, popular trends. With the interest in musicals currently on the rise, what better way for Nottingham Playhouse to increase its audience than with, what is essentially Glee with grannies? This concept ensures popularity as it continues the pantomime spirit, which we have recently left behind.

V – But how can you really praise the concept when you could barely define what it was: Musical? Panto? Sketch show? Hard hitting satire piece? It was a play having an identity crisis, which served only to confuse the audience. Perhaps there is a reason that Panto season only lasts one month a year, how many times can ‘he’s behind you’ really be funny – for a panto virgin such as myself, the answer is never. The staggering amount of in jokes in ‘Forever Young’ reduced the intended audience strictly to those who’d see other Playhouse pantos.

S- That may be true but there were other jokes that appealed to the masses, and I’m pretty sure that the audience enjoyed themselves, judging from the rumbling chuckles in the auditorium. After all, who doesn’t love a bit of slapstick? The physical jokes came thick and fast as well as the verbal, with one character, an old woman with tourettes, inappropriately bursting out with expletives. It’s all a bit of fun really.

V – It struck me that a lot of the ‘fun’ of the play was found in cheap jokes about the elderly. The programme wrote ‘Forever Young’ into a tradition of inspired plays with strong older characters, making a stand against our generation’s apathy for the old. But Alan Bennett this ain’t, and incontinence stops being funny after the second time it’s referenced in the first minute and a half.

S- Ok, I’ll give you that but the opening sequence with the Oust can and the commode was pretty funny. In fact, they used props to great effect for both amusing and touching moments. I was impressed with the costumes and how old they managed to make the actors look. The grey hair and crotchety trousers, mixed with the actor’s arthritic movements meant that at times I forgot that the majority of the cast were in their 30s.

V – Granted, the actors’ physicality was pretty flawless, but what’s the use of the characters being developed physically but not emotionally? Again, the lack of definitive genre hindered the play, as the stock characters weren’t sufficient to hold up an original plot. The only moment wherein I felt emotionally engaged was the performance of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, which was truly touching in its allusion to loss of dignity in the elderly.

S- That was a particularly stunning performance but you shouldn’t discount the other songs in the production! The medleys were particularly enjoyable, with a blend of music from the ‘70s to modern day. ‘I Will Survive’ was belted out with fervour and added to the light hearted tone of the play.

V – I agree that the some of the songs you couldn’t help but smile at, but overall, I could have smiled just as much at a karaoke night. Although individually lots of the elements of the play were successful, as a whole, there was a lack of structure that meant that the full potential of ‘Forever Young’ as a musical, or Panto, or play, was not realised.

by Sophie Watson and Victoria Urquhart

ArtsArts Reviews
4 Comments on this post.
  • Marie Heath
    25 February 2010 at 10:19
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    I thought it was brilliant. Admittedly, having not bought a program, the fact that it was set far in the future with the current actors looking as they might then, was lost on me. However, this did not stop my enjoyment. There were some uncomfortable moments when the “sister” made such pointed references to fact that the residents were close to the end of their lives, and denied them their dignity, but I felt this was to illustrate how the elderly are too frequently treated in reality. There were some really poignant moments, too. But overall, the performance had a sense of vitality. These former artists may have seen their best days long ago, but they still had their memories of past glory and could act them out. They still had spirit, respect for each other, and shared enjoyment in performing the old songs. And they could cock-a-snook at their “oppressor”.

  • Andrew Knight
    13 February 2011 at 11:08
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    Don’t patronise me-I know when I am confused or not.This play is superb but I am 58 so I don’t expect that you think I know what to think!
    There was a standing ovation-obviously the audience was confused.

  • David & Mary
    19 February 2011 at 23:43
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    We really enjoyed this performance we were laughing most of the time, great acting by all of the cast. We should not be laughing as we are getting nearer to their age, enjoy life while you can. Show recommended.

  • ann hill
    27 February 2011 at 20:33
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    This show was brilliant, I saw it twice in one week, I took different friends with me the second time and if it had been showing another week I would have gone again with another set of friends. Just read some other comments and I can’t understand why some people try to look too deeply into the show,just enjoy it for what it was, pure entertainment.

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