Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a grandparent be taken advantage of by some sort of salesperson. My hand is raised, and yours probably is, too. Older people being tricked into buying things that are overpriced and unnecessary (double glazing, new driveways, alarm systems, etc) is unfortunately seemingly quite common. It takes a special kind of arsehole to intimidate an old lady into giving away her cash on her doorstep, but it happens. Beneath the Blue Rinse imagines a world where it doesn’t anymore, because 75-year-old Flora (Mariene Sidaway) has had enough. With her ‘fuck buddy’ (yes, you read that right) George (Ian Redford) and the O.P.A.L (Older Person’s Armed League), she’s starting a terrorist movement that demands the elderly receive the respect they deserve.
The show starts when the sleaziest sleazebag that ever lived, alarm system salesman Simon (Kevin Tomlinson), happens to have the bad luck of being assigned to visit Flora. She begins the visit as very much the unassuming, gentle, bumbling old lady. She offers tea and homemade lemon drizzle cake and talks about her dead husband. However, Flora isn’t all that she seems. Her true intentions, pioneering the world’s first geriatric terrorist group, soon become clear, and before we know it she’s got Simon tied up at gunpoint. Beneath the Blue Rinse then half-heartedly recreates that famous scene from Reservoir Dogs (you know, the one with the song by Steeler’s Wheel) and sees Flora ‘torture’ Simon by pouring lukewarm tea on his face and not letting him get up to go to the loo.
The concept is fantastic, but writer Tom Glover doesn’t take it far enough. In fact, he doesn’t really take it anywhere. Perhaps I’m bloodthirsty as a result of having watched too much Game of Thrones, but thirty minutes in I find myself wondering when she’ll get the job done. If Simon had absolutely any redeemable qualities whatsoever then maybe we’d be rooting for him, but he doesn’t. He’s a liar, a cheat, and is openly disgusted by the elderly. I almost look forward to Flora and George knocking him off, but alas, we get no such satisfaction.
The programme promises “Tarantino meets Last of the Summer Wine”, but it’s sadly much more of the latter. Sidaway as the radicalised OAP begins brilliantly volatile, while Tomlinson as Simon is despicably slimy, although occasionally tips over into panto villain territory. I was hoping for an over 60’s Killing Eve, or Grace and Frankie with balaclavas, but Beneath the Blue Rinse is a lukewarm attempt. I mean, look at its name. It does little to really take the elderly seriously and is still chocked full of boring stereotypes. If Glover did away with these and sent Flora on a proper “killing spree” then he’d not only be creating a complex, elderly female character who does more than knit and watch Countdown, but he might have a serious hit on his hands, too.
Beneath the Blue Rinse is playing the Park Theatre until 15 June. For more information and tickets, visit the Park Theatre website.