Lisa Clatworthy enjoys an outing to Cambridge Arts Theatre on International Women’s Day
There’s one in every cloud, so we’re told, and there is certainly a silver lining in every Cambridge cloud this week, as the city’s Arts Theatre hosts the English Touring Theatre’s production of Sandi Toksvig’s play, Silver Lining.
Writer, comedian, presenter and political activist, Toksvig might have set her play in a retirement home, with most of the superb cast eligible for bus passes, but it isn’t for the over 60s only. With Keziah Joseph putting in an enthusiastic and energetic performance as young care worker, Hope, this is an evening’s entertainment for all ages.
The premise for the play is simple: five female residents of the retirement home have been left behind while storm Vera rages outside, and they need to escape. In realising their plight and then solving it, the residents and Hope indulge in dexterous verbal sparring and inspired word play – Toksvig’s ability with language really shines through.
It’s not all amusing banter though. The characters deal with many real world issues, including climate change, homophobia and suicide. While some topics are simply touched upon, others provide structure for the play, particularly dementia, older women’s invisibility and relationships. In fact, it’s a great insight into the ways older women are seen and treated in our society. Many in the audience will have experienced this, but for others it could be a first-time encounter. Whichever camp you’re in, it’ll make you think. This is no didactic play though. There’s plenty to amuse, with perfect comic timing, particularly from Maggie McCarthy as May and Rachel Davies as Maureen.
The play is set in one room, with great use of the full width of the Arts Theatre’s stage. Atmospheric lighting and sound effects create a real sense of threat from storm Vera, while full use of the two doors out of the room builds the feeling that our five retirees and care worker are stranded – and you can’t help but laugh at the large water bottles bouncing in the door. But then, this is a comedy, beautifully written by Toksvig and played by the cast, so go prepared to laugh your socks off.