We don’t often see nonagenarians as characters in a play – unless they’re Charlie Bucket’s grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, bed-ridden and witty. They rather unfortunately tend to lack realism, and are either caricaturised or used as a device in family dramas. However, Hatch It Theatre has done something different by choosing a group of women from a care home as the main characters of their new show. They are, surprisingly and refreshingly, portrayed in a mostly original way.
In The Pink, written and directed by Emma Brand, uses young actors to act out the (mostly) real words of real nonagenarians, in an interview setting in a care home. Questions about their lives and their happiest memories are intertwined with their otherwise ordinary day – where jokes, teasing, and arguing abound. Particularly interesting is the way actors portray these ladies – not trying to ‘act old’, but rather letting the words speak for themselves. Although certainly odd at the beginning – when we don’t understand who the women are – there’s a moment of realisation when it all makes sense, and we see the performers as mouthpieces. It is then that the writing comes to life.
Yet there is something amiss. Although endearing and funny at times, there is a certain lack of depth in the feelings expressed. Loneliness, for example, is just touched upon. And dementia, although exemplified in one of the characters, is again just treated lightly. The play, therefore, is light, entertaining, and insightful, but shies away from essential issues faced by our elders.
Technically, some transitions were not as smooth as they could have been, with exits and entrances being a bit jumpy at times. There is, however, a good lightning design (by Sean Ford) that helps differentiate between the interview and other moments. The five leading ladies are equally convincing in their roles. Particularly remarkable and honest is Elly Wade as Rachel, who wanders around the care home looking for the keys of her flat, making the others feel uncomfortable, or maybe scared. Emily Reid is also fantastic as the not-so-naïve Dora, and in general the whole cast are believable and engaging.
Overall, In The Pink is an interesting piece of theatre that places at its core a very important but often overlooked social group. It’s funny, respectful, and warm. By using real conversations as the basis of the script, there’s a delightful spontaneity and witticism throughout. However, it also feels like a missed opportunity of really dealing with deeper issues. Yet this can’t be denied – it’s a highly entertaining piece of work that, above all, is a work of love.
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