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You’d think twice, wouldn’t you, if a couple of seventy-five-year olds got up on a stage and started to play guitar and sing? Admit it, your first reaction would be to think that this was not normal, that at seventy-five they should be looking after themselves and be doing “something sensible”.
Were I to say that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were set to play a gig, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Indeed you’d probably want to know where you could buy tickets! Yet both gentlemen are seventy-five. Why should a number, an age, make a difference to what we as individuals do or how others perceive what we do?
This is the essence of Danusia Iwaszko’s play “The Wisdom Club” which premiered at The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds last night. The play has had a long gestation period and has been thoroughly researched in association with Age UK. Iwaszko and director Roger Haines have created something that is as funny as it is deep and thought provoking.
We are introduced to the characters one by one at the Coffee Club ( which doesn’t serve coffee) held in a church hall. Megan (Liz Crowther) is the sort of person who gets on with life but is struggling with her daughter Susanna’s (Carol Starks) move to Ixworth – do they even have buses in Ixworth? Rani (Souad Faress) is an Indian emigrant who has struggled with racial abuse but very proud of her heritage and her family’s achievements – she is addicted to her tablet and Googles the answers to most questions. Finally, Lenny (John Branwell) makes an entrance – an entrance which might need editing were this play to run at the ‘other’ Theatre Royal in Norwich. A retired drayman, Lenny is the down to earth, practical one… being there but not interfering.
What then evolves is the story of Megan, a widow of seventy-four who has always cared for others with little thought for herself. Now she is alone and wondering what there is in life. The trap she has fallen into is that she thinks being of an age means you can’t do stuff… until the incident with the young manager in Marks & Spencer that has got her trending on Facebook. The youngest character is Megan’s daughter, who at forty-eight has just become pregnant. Her horrified mother realises that this means that she must still be having sex with her husband! Age perceptions work both ways you see.
Thought provoking is a term we frequently use to describe something that makes us uncomfortable or makes us face unpalatable facts. This play is thought provoking, but not in a dry, morose way. It is hilariously funny, but not a comedy. More importantly it is brilliantly delivered by four fine actors who are obviously enjoying their work.
The Wisdom Club is a fine piece of writing which deserves to become a classic piece of touring theatre. It plays at The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until 9th February – click her to book tickets.
If you are curious about the 2019 sixteen date US tour by messrs Richards & Jagger, search for No Filter Tour. The video below has a resonance in the play, I add it here because this is what a bunch of old blokes should be doing, if they want to!