May 19-28, 2022; 2hrs 5mins
What is life? Channeled or expressive, creative or controlled, old or new, wild or safe?
Tim Firth's (Kinky Boots, Calendar Girls the Musical, The Band) new musical, premiered at Storyhouse, features an impressive cast, including Jeff Rawle, Elizabeth Counsell and Michelle Dotrice – and it's a delight; funny and poignant, with a measure of profundity that leaves you thinking.
It is a play of contrasts, exploring a number of contradictory themes before coming to the existential conclusion that life needs to be lived, and the most should be made of the present moment.
At its heart is a contrast between a father (Jeff Rawle) and son (Chris Hannon) – the older man eccentric and creative, the younger, obsessed with health and safety in a reaction against the perceived erratic nature of the older man.
Once this is established, a series of issues are woven into the story through some excellent characterisation. Michelle Dotrice is great as Ivy, a dour trade-unionist who, against her ingrained instincts, can't stop herself getting involved in so-called childish games and enjoys them despite her supposedly better judgment.
Ted, played by Maxwell Hutcheon, unfolds from his stiff, starchy retired medic who, after a life of self-control, begins to enjoy and express himself more fully.
There is much thought given to the difference between generations. Alice (Elizabeth Counsell) in particular struggles with new technology, yet when confronted with youth rediscovers her vitality and throws off her mobility scooter. The introduction of schoolchildren allows characters to rediscover the innocence and vitality of youth and gives them "permission'' to take part in imaginative play.
Tying the old and new together is Katy, a history teacher (Alyce Liburd), who pushes the young to express themselves and appreciates the legacy of age.
The song lyrics throughout are clear and clever. The band, directed by George Francis, is excellent, adding subtle mood and feeling.
Tim Firth has presumably reflected on his own background in writing the work. His father loved nothing more than scouring the local scrapyard for old things to reuse. There is usefulness in something old and weathered, which might have changed use countless times but has retained value. Just like some of the characters in this warm, nostalgic and creative musical.
Tickets and Information here