Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): You’re Never Too Old at Just the Tonic at the Mash House (venue 288). Reviewed by Martin Gray
A park bench. A litter bin. A few leaves on the ground. The set is simple, but suggestive – it’s autumn, both on stage and in life.
We meet the elderly Ada eating chips on the bench and she’s soon joined by Tommy, an unkempt fellow carrying a beer bottle. He’d like a chip, she turns down a swig.
As they chat, we learn a little about them. Tommy is amused by the passage of time, the changes he’s seen. He shares trivia with Ada which he calls “secrets” and jokes that she should share one of her own.
So she tells him that last Thursday she went to London for the day. To see Philip, the son who doesn’t bother to reply to her monthly letters. The son who’s never bothered bringing her granddaughter to see her. He’d sent her a railway ticket bought by his boss that hadn’t been checked by a guard. So she could use it one way, and then get a coach back to Manchester…
The story that emerges is sad funny and bittersweet. Steve Wood’s script is subtle, full of telling detail and turns of phrase – think Alan Bennett or Victoria Wood.
The drama is everyday, but in the hands of Ruth Madoc and Ian Lavender, directed by Danusia Iwaszko, it’s gripping. They play off the script, and one another, beautifully, producing poignant performances that leave the theatre with you.
Madoc and Lavender are best known for their long-running sitcoms, but Ada and Tommy are so present that no one is tempted to shout “hi-de-hi” or “stupid boy”. The actors deserve special praise for appearing entirely unperturbed by the appalling amount of noise from some musical production in an adjoining room playing in the same slot.
The play ends on an unexpected note, and a perfect one. Ignore the terrible sitcom title, get along and see two masterful actors bringing a superb script to life.
Originally published in The Scotsman
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