Review: You Can Always Hand Them Back

You Can Always Hand Them Back
Centrepoint Theatre,
World premiere in Palmerston North
April 14 to May 26
Reviewed by Lee Matthews.

Expect to cry at this comedy - I hadn't expected to be so moved.

Cath (Lynda Milligan) and Maurice (George Henare) are busy retirees. The kids have left home, the nest is empty  and they're enjoying life, still in love after all these years. 

But it's a bit quiet. Lonely, if they're honest.

Cath's an eager grandma-in-waiting, hanging out for either   daughter Annabel ("such a beautiful name, of course she calls herself Anna now'') to take time from her law work to have a baby, or for son Mark's wife Juuulia ("she's English, but she's ... very nice, really'').

It's not so much about the kids becoming parents; it's about Cath becoming a grandma. Get ON with it, kids!

 Cath doesn't want to be 93 before she hears the patter of little feet. It happens, and life changes.  Maurice, proud as punch, is a little reluctant and gruff in case anybody notices how much he loves the kids.

 And the babies visit, and the grandparents babysit, and it all builds into that mysterious relationship called love, with all its poignant, painful pleasures. 

Playwright Roger Hall is a  father and grandfather. He's been in these situations. He's driven across town to collect the forgotten teddy, coming back in triumph to find everyone  asleep.

Mark and Juuulia live in England for a while. Such a hole in the grandparents' lives, such a silence. Skype? What's that?

 They're ageing gently; bewildered by change, bits of their bodies getting arthritic and sore.

 Being slowed down. Frustrating. They hate it. But life goes on.

Watching Milligan and Henare is like eavesdropping on 50 years of marriage. Did I really do this to my parents? Of course I did. Will my kids  do  these things to me? Absolutely, they will. They catch the human condition exactly; pain and pleasure, love and loneliness; and the desperate necessity of being needed and useful. Otherwise, what's the point?

The songs carry the emotions. Grandparents' Aerobics had the audience rocking with laughter.

Peter  Skellern's lyrics (played magnificently on piano by Paul Barrett, that man is a show in himself and his pointed comments from behind the piano add so much to the moment) haunt the heart afterwards  "bursting like light through the door''. Imagine the darkness without it.

Art mimics life. Great art captures life, shows it to us in a different way. That's what this show does. See it, or miss something special.

By Roger Hall, with music and lyrics by Peter Skellern, directed by Jeff Kingsford-Brown.

Manawatu Standard