Theatre Review: Silver Lining by Sandi Toksvig

Photo by Mark Douet

 

By Ken Powell

I wanted to start by saying ‘whatever you’ve got planned for the next few days, cancel it, and go see the comedy, Silver Lining, at Theatre by the Lake instead (TBTL)’. Unfortunately though, the short run is completely sold out (if you’re lucky you might get a ticket or two here or there). Such is the popularity of Sandi Toksvig.

So I’ll say instead, go see if you can still get tickets for the show when it goes to York Theatre Royal at the end of March or The Lowry, Salford Quays at the beginning of April. These are the final tour dates and who knows when the play will return? Seriously. Go see it.

Judging by the packed house at TBTL (‘crammed’ might be the better word) the comedy, which centres around five old ladies in a retirement home who have been abandoned in the wake of rising floods engulfing the area, has been a sell-out success. And so it should – it was one of the funniest and cleverest performances I’ve ever seen.

In a way I wanted a flop – Toksvig is just too damned clever for her own good. I remember being in awe of her talent decades ago as a young(er) man and the cynic in me scoffs how she has become such a part of the establishment. That surely means she’s lost her talent? Sold out? Lost her nerve to be daring? Nonsense, of course. If anything, she’s better than ever. I will have to continue being insanely jealous of her superb abilities (but I think I can manage it).

Toksvig’s writing is completely on point, mixing classic funny moments with poignant reflections on being a woman, growing old, facing up to fears, being left behind by family and what it means to be in love (and to lose that love). The actors on stage conveyed Toksvig’s ideas wonderfully well without over-hamming the comedy nor over-sentimentalizing the seriousness.

They were all superb performers (and their lists of performance credits shows just how experienced these older ladies really are) but I was impressed too by Keziah Joseph who plays the appropriately named Hope Daley and is fresh out of drama school. She held her own with the other more experienced performers and was hilarious. Theo Toksvig-Stewart (playing Jed), also debuting, was the single male role in the show and wasn’t in for long but his bewilderment at finding these ‘old biddies’ and having them run rings around him is a classic moment and had us in tears.

Sandi Toksvig seems to have her fingers in so many pies these days it’s a wonder she wrote this play at all. She admits that writing is a ‘hobby’ and that she would love it to be more than just that. Her comic touch clearly transfers well to the stage. In one interview, she joked that director Rebecca Gatward made her take jokes out of the script to ‘make it sing’ but that “they’ll all go into the next play!” I hope so and I’ll look forward to seeing the result when she does.

Photo by Mark Douet