Writer: Michael Aitkens
Director: David Grindley
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Some years ago theatres were congested with adaptations of well-loved TV sitcoms. Michael Aitkens’s Waiting for God missed out on the fad but that may be to its advantage as the adaptation now feels more like a ‘proper’ play rather than a nostalgic cash-in.
Diana (Nichola McAuliffe) is a retired photo-journalist who specialised in war stories. She is determined not to go gentle into the good night and her bloody-minded attitude makes life miserable for Harvey Baines ( Samuel Collings) the supercilious manager of the care home in which she resides. Diana finds new resident and ‘intellectual anarchist ‘Tom (Jeffrey Holland) to be a kindred spirit although this is unexpected – while Diana is sceptical Tom tends to drift off into his own dream-world. The opposites attract and the duo finds they are working together against a society that has determined they no longer have any value.
Rather than adapt specific episodes of the sitcom Michael Aitkens cherry picks key emotional moments from across the entire series. The play, therefore, revolves around Diana’s emotional development which makes Nichola McAuliffe very much the central character as the play explains the origins of her cynical shield and suggests ways in which it might be penetrated. It is a valid approach although the second Act starts to feel as if all the others character are simply feeding lines to Diana.
There are subtle updates to the theme of the show. Whereas the TV show tackled the issue of how elderly people are perceived the stage adaptation is as much about the impact of financial restrictions on the standard of care for the aged with a care home manager who has received almost three weeks’ worth of training.
Director David Grindley sets a glossy ironic mood , with Classic FM playing as background music , to highlight the far from dignified treatment received by the residents of the care home. Despite the occasional bare-arsed sight gag Grindley seems more comfortable with developing the gentle hesitant relationship between Diana and Tom than with the broader comedic aspects of the play. The final scene begs for a faster pace to make the farcical set-up work.
Waiting for God is not so much bittersweet as actually bitter. The indignities of old age, with failing limbs and bodily functions, are not ignored and there is genuine anger underlying Nichola McAuliffe’s constant grumbling and savage observations.
Despite the occasionally slack pace Waiting for God manages to preserve the special features of the TV show upon which it was based while allowing subtle updates making it one of the better TV to stage adaptations.
Runs until 8 July 2017 | Image: Geraint Lewis