REVIEW: Sandi Toksvig’s ‘Silver Lining’ is a laugh-a-minute comedy with serious messages about the universal fear of old age at its heart

PUBLISHED: 15:26 08 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 08 March 2017

Silver Lining is at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Silver Lining is at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Archant

Telling the tale of five extraordinary yet forgotten women - all recognisable television faces - who come together one treacherous night to recreate The Great Escape senior citizen style, Sandi Toksvig’s ‘Silver Lining’ is a laugh a minute comedy with some darker, more serious messages at its heart.

Silver Lining at the Cambridge Corn exchange Silver Lining at the Cambridge Corn exchange

Set in a quiet, all but abandoned, older people’s home in the middle of Storm Vera (ironically named after one of the residents who died a few days ago), the play packs in witty one-liners and laugh-out-loud set pieces, whilst tackling tougher issues like dementia, attempted suicide and the universal fear of old age.

Gloria (played brilliantly by Sheila Reid, best known for her role as Madge in ITV’s ‘Benidorm’) is the first resident that the audience meets. Unlike the others, she tries to look to the future - by keeping up with the modern technologies of the day, including signing up to Twitter with a rather promiscuous username. But she still feels left behind, and it’s soon revealed that she’s on anti-depressants and has attempted suicide more than once...

She is joined by Maureen (Rachel Davies, ‘Emmerdale’) - a Deidre Barlow-type character that always has her “mixer tapes” playing, who is secretly a lot stronger than she looks and dreams of stardom on the stage. There’s also wheelchair-bound May (played to perfection by Maggie McCarthy, ‘Doctors’), with a personality similar to Rosemary Shrager) who’s one liners and constant wit keep the audience laughing as each minute passes - though she’s not without her own difficult past; her out of touch Christian sister June (Joanna Monro, ‘Angels’, ‘Doctor Who’) who keeps hanging on to the belief that her daughter will come and rescue her but, as is later revealed, there’s more than meets the eye to her character.

The dark horse of the show is ‘St Michael’ (played convincingly and affectionately by Amanda Walker, ‘Holby City’, ‘Cloud Atlas’), an at-first-silent resident who has dementia, but springs to life when she wishes and occasionally lets out brief pearls of wisdom. In fact, her monologue in the second act is the most moving part of the entire play - a powerfully truthful and poignant take on how some perceive those with dementia or Alzheimer’s...

The arrival of Hope Daily (Keziah Joseph) a Snapchat-obsessed, selfie-taking, street-talking teenage care worker from Croydon who is temping for the day, and soon finds herself caught up in the rising tides of the potentially fatal floods, is cleverly used to develop the plot. What becomes clear through her characteristics and the language she uses is the worlds-apart separation between the younger and older generation; though by the second half she’s undoubtedly learnt a lot having listened to the older characters’ very individual life stories.

The play itself is expertly written: as the storm worsens and the residents begin to learn their fate - that they may not be saved after all - they ask the question that goes hand in hand with old age: “is this it?” And, as I overheard someone say during the interval, it’s “the horrible truth”...

Never is this truer than in the second – and far more emotive, heart-wrenching act, as each of the characters pause to share their somewhat upsetting stories with the audience. The overarching message of ‘Silver Lining’, though, is a poignant and touching one: ‘don’t forget about your older relatives, because one day you’ll be in their shoes’.

‘Silver Lining’ is at the venue until Saturday 11 for a range of 2.30pm and 7.45pm performances. Tickets; £18 to £33 (including a £3 per-ticket booking fee), are available from www.cambridgeartstheatre.com or by calling the box office 01223 503333.

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