For a play to come back to the Nottingham Playhouse stage four times since it's first showing in 2010 and to have a legion of devoted followers, some having made repeated visits to see the show, it must have something very special about it. Forever Young is a musical comedy that makes broken hips hip.
The programme advises that “Forever Young began life at the beginning of 2001 in Germany and was originally called Thalia Vista Social Club. It is still being revised now and is currently enjoying its latest incarnation at the state owned Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. The reasons for its longevity over there are as mysterious and extraordinary as they are in Nottingham.” Maybe audiences throughout the world just like seeing folk grow old disgracefully. Especially wacky old actors.
Two images below from the German productions.
In Germany, it was originally devised as an entertainment in front of the safety curtain that could allow construction work to continue on the set for what turned out to be an unexpectedly short running production of the opera Faust. Gedeon's Forever Young turned out to be more popular than Faust and has been played all over the world to adoring fans. Something strong within the show demonstrates a very positive message or two about getting old and its originators highlighted Europe's poor record when it comes to looking after its elderly citizens. Saying that, the messages are put across with a great deal of adult and silly humour and pathos as well as some lovely renditions of songs including the title track Forever Young by Gold/Lloyd and Mertens.
The play is set in 2050 and Nottingham Playhouse has had to close because of what are known as The Cuts. The space has been turned into an old folks home and some of the residents are old actors that once graced the boards at Nottingham Playhouse. In this production they are played by some of the cast of the recent (2014) pantomime. Part of the fun of the piece is in seeing familiar faces and bodies aged up. Each week the residents revel in taking to 'the stage' and relive some of their old routines and shows. With the exception of Georgina White as the sexy Sister George all of the actors/ characters play themselves many years on. So actor Clara Darcy is Ms Darcy, Dale Superville is Mr Superville and so on.
Darcy and Superville make a fantastic couple of geriatric old love birds, mostly squashed together on a settee. Darcy tries to act much younger than her years and hangs on to her days as Juliet or Nina from The Seagull when she isn't going for a random perambulation around the theatre. Superville shows off some superb comic timing and brings the house down with his high pitched singing voice and uninhibited dance moves. His character is the very essence of continuing to have fun despite his physical age. His disastrous magic show is one of the highlights of the show.
Tim Frater and John Elkington play off each other brilliantly during a prolonged slap stick scene that amuses with the creative ways each find to damage the other ending with an explosive first half. Each of their characters sit on the opposite side of the stage and often say so much by saying very little.
All the young actors are very believable as the old folk shuffling around the stage. Their antics receive a mixture of laughs and sympathetic “aaahs”. Much of the show is told through action rather than dialogue and is often more truthful for it. Musical director Stefan Bednarczyk is seated at the piano on stage for 99% of Forever Young being his character Mr Bednarczyk and playing the accompaniment to the eighteen main songs ranging from the traditional folk song Scarborough Fair to the rousing I Love Rock and Roll including three original numbers by Gedeon – By and By, Dying and Thanks for the Laughs.
To give it its full title 'Forever Young – rock and roll until you die' this fantastically funny and ultimately poignant show will have them rocking until their hips break unexpectedly in the aisles at Nottingham Playhouse and on its tour including its artistic partner Oldham Coliseum, the Warwick Arts Centre, and Cast Doncaster. Forever Young is gloriously directed by Giles Croft and plays at Nottingham Playhouse only until 7th February. Shuffle on down to the Playhouse for this production and you will be guaranteed to laugh yourself young again.
Review originally published by The Public Reviews on Saturday 31st January 2015
Photo credit: Robert Day.