City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Oldest Man in Catford Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 04 August 2013

The Oldest Man in Catford (from promotional trailer)
Show details
Freemasons Hall
Quidem Productions
Running time: 
Ade Morris (writer / director), Richard Bell (lighting designer), Bill Smith (designer).
Stewart Howson (Reg Thorn), Alice Fyles (Julie Brewer).

Nostalgia - it's not what is used to be. Or perhaps it's Reg Thorn's past that won't stand up to scrutiny. Reg seems to be hiding away in a sitting room as sepia-toned as the photographs of the long dead friends and relations that he talks to; sharing war time reminiscences while dreading the knock of the SS on the door. The Social Security that is, who he fears will ferry him off to an old people's home.

He may call his great granddaughter Julie his Nemesis but grudgingly admits "she's alright", as she delivers, rather than divine retribution, cake and a glimpse of the outside world through his broadsheet newspapers.

They may not see eye to eye on the ability to buy happiness or the merits of, say, Radio 4 over wide screen TV, but they do get along within a well practiced domestic routine and exchange of pastry based puns. But as Reg says, "life is complicated" and when circumstances increase their interdependence he fears that the past, "best left where it is", will catch up. As the potential Oldest Man in Catford, he is becoming tired of running and a little weary of life.

Reg may regard himself as a "man out of time" but he is aware that he can't start again. Perhaps not, but with Julie's help he may yet face the past and have a future beyond the prison of his own making.

This is a beautifully played gentle comedy, full of reserved wit and restrained passion. Stewart Howson appears to relish his role as Reg, when poking amiable, subtle fun at his great granddaughter and delivering lines directly to the audience describing the "past as smelling of khaki" or his idea of a seaside heaven as being an "amusement arcadia". Alice Fyles gives as good as she gets as the feisty Julie and the relationship between the pair remains believable. Underlying the cozy cardigan there is a sense of tension and a lurking darker side. The promised "strange and terrible secrets" are however a little diluted by time and the denouement, with its multiple threads, feels just a little contrived. As the saying goes "longevity conquers scandal every time."

While it lacks a bit of emotional punch, it's a polished production that will stand the test of time.

Runs 1-25 August 2013 , 2.30 pm.

£13 (£11) - £15 (£13).