‘Silver Lining’ // Centenary Theatre Group

‘Silver Lining’ was sweet.

Set in a retirement home in Kent, ‘Silver Lining’ written by Sandi Toskvig and staged by Centenary Theatre Group, takes place over one very dramatic day in the lives of its elderly female ensemble. As a torrential storm rages outside, the residents of the home find themselves abandoned by emergency services as flood waters begin to rise. They are left having to confront some rather pressing dilemmas: how can they escape before they are all drowned, and, at this point in their lives, is it even worth it?

It is a bizarrely bleak premise for a comedy full of sexual innuendo. Nevertheless, it serves to set up some winning comic moments as well as reflective dramatic ones, as the characters examine their personal histories when confronted with their own mortality.

The play is written by beloved British comedian and television presenter, Sandi Toskvig. Those familiar with Toskvig’s work (such as her current tenure as the host of QI) may find themselves as little disappointed in this script. Many moments are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, such as very early on in the piece when cockney Gloria (played with unwavering commitment by Julie Moran who audiences are sure to enjoy), looking around the damp and tired communal rec room, remarks, ‘Just think. If I hadn’t quit smoking and drinking all those years ago, I might have missed all this’.

Unfortunately, for every sharp one-liner that delivers there are many that don’t, and several resort to clichés about old age. Considering that, it is strange that Centenary Theatre Group chose to structure their season in this way; ‘Silver Lining’ follows their excellent production of ‘Heroes’, also set in a retirement home and dealing with very similar concepts.

The highlight of this production is Penny Murphy as May, the character who seems to have the most of Toskvig imbued in her. Murphy’s performance is one the best to hit a Brisbane stage this year. Every moment feels authentic, connected and considered. Delivers her one-liners with biting wit, and takes the audience on a heavy, emotional journey when the difficulties of her past emerge.

An appearance by Lewis Ziebarth as Jed, who breaks in expecting the building to be abandoned, is exceptional despite its brevity. Ziebarth is committed and memorable in this performance, even though he has fewer lines than any other actor.

There is a lot to enjoy in this production if you are able to forgive the more awkward gags and occasional pacing issues. Audience members who can relate to the stories being told and see themselves in the characters on display will likely connect to the piece on a more personal level and have a hugely entertaining few hours. But you’ll be forgiven for hoping that Centenary’s next production deviates somewhat from the retirement home motif.  

‘Silver Lining’ runs until June 1, 2019. Tickets are available at https://centenarytheatre.com.au/.


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