Theatre review - Silver Lining, The Lowry

Sheila Reid, Keziah Jospeh and Rachel Davies in Silver Lining

Sheila Reid, Keziah Jospeh and Rachel Davies in Silver Lining - Credit: Archant

Kate Houghton reviews Silver Lining, a new play from Sandi Toksvig, at The Lowry in Salford.

Amanda Walker, Joanna Monro and Rachel Davies in Silver Lining

Amanda Walker, Joanna Monro and Rachel Davies in Silver Lining - Credit: Archant

Silver Lining is the new comedy from Sandi Toksvig, portraying a day in the lives of five elderly ladies living in a care home in Gravesend. As an (unlikely) oversight leaves them stranded in the face of rising floodwaters we are given a glimpse into the future that may face us all; old, forgotten, irrelevant and waiting for the end.

This somewhat bleak synopsis doesn’t do complete justice to this play, I admit, though it does raise some uncomfortable questions. As you can imagine, anything written by Sandi Toksvig will be peppered with humour, liberally dosed with one liners and populated by characters with more to them than initially meets the eye.

It’s this bit, ‘than initially meets the eye’ that I think causes the problem.

The first half of the play is very funny; plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, while unexpected appearance of a large flashing pink dildo has the whole room guffawing however.

It is the second half, where it seems Toksvig’s desire to send a message about the loneliness of old age and youth’s assumption that anybody this ancient can’t possibly have ever been anyone or anything of importance or interest, leads to a series of vignettes, with each character reminiscing while the lights dim on the rest. It doesn’t fit, somehow, leading to a somewhat lumpy quality overall.

The cast is a joy, however. Five very experienced thesps who bring everything they have to bear on their roles, yet, it seems, struggle with the timing – an issue with direction and script, rather than talent, I think.

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There’s also a frustration over character development. Either give us fully rounded characters, or simply leave us in the moment – trying to do a bit of both just frustrates!

Wheelchair-bound May Trickett, brilliantly played by Maggie McCarthy, is perhaps the best developed character and our moment of insight into her past is both poignant and uplifting, as we recognise how times have changed for the better for gay women. Her sister June (Joanna Monro) is sadly ‘cookie-cutter bored housewife’ however.

Amanda Walker’ dementia sufferer nobody has met before is a delight and we could have done with more of her, perhaps enough to let us build a complete picture of the woman she once was. Or perhaps less – allow her little outbursts to be completely random; little verbal bombs thrown to the audience to grand effect.

‘Youth’ is portrayed by the talented Keziah Joseph, on her first role of what will no doubt be many. Again, too two-dimensional; even her rant about the world she is being left to inherit could have been so much more. A second ‘youth’ - Theo Toksvig-Stewart in his first role – is slightly inexplicable. Arriving for no reason other than to steal the old ladies’ ‘stuff’, he is soon dealt with and gone till the play’s end.

I kind of enjoyed this play, but kind of didn’t, too. It doesn’t have enough of anything to create strong feelings either way. Sorry, but better luck next time Ms. Toksvig.