Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Talented Cast Takes Credit at All Ages; Real-Life Stories Lie Behind New Play Swags & Tails Which DAVID WHETSTONE Saw at Alnwick Playhouse

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Talented Cast Takes Credit at All Ages; Real-Life Stories Lie Behind New Play Swags & Tails Which DAVID WHETSTONE Saw at Alnwick Playhouse

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

THE harsh realities of old age and the indomitable spirit required to overcome them are at the heart of the latest play from Open Clasp.

Catrina McHugh and her theatre company, which is due to receive regular Arts Council funding from next month, make plays inspired by the stories told to them by women in various sections of the community.

In Swags & Tails - something to do with curtains, I was told by someone in the know - we have a day centre that's threatened with closure, an under-staffed care home and an elderly widow trapped in her spare room.

You could be forgiven for wondering: do Open Clasp ever hear any happy stories? The happiest thing about this touring play is the talented cast of five actresses and particularly Helen Russell, a shining light in the North East theatre world who shows that professionalism survives long after the first flush of youth.

Well into her 80s now, Ms Russell doubles up as Lillian, stuck in the spare room with her memories and knick-knacks, and Marlene, "posh" user of the doomed day centre. She makes it look easy. A great pair of performances by a genuine theatrical role model, I'd say.

At 62, Barbara Heslop is a mere slip of a thing, but she also puts in an impressive shift as feisty Ellen, raging against carers, Margaret Thatcher and pretty much everyone, and poor, confused Gloria, lost inside her head in the care home where quality time with the residents is at a premium.

Catrina McHugh, Zoe Lambert and Rachel Teate represent the stressedout younger generations - the carers, the daughters and a rather implausible young journalist with a double-barrelled name from the "Evening Chronicle" - who struggle to preserve the old folks' dignity.

Everyone wants the best for people towards the end of their lives, but in an ageing world where money's short, compromises have to be made. …

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