Waiting for God

The stage adaptation of the hit TV comedy at
Blackpool Grand Theatre, 21 June

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After five successful series during the 1990s BBC sitcom Waiting for God has been adapted for stage by writer Michael Aitkens. Directed by David Grindley, the play follows the lives of those inhabiting the Bayview Retirement Home – a dreary, slow-paced residential home that proudly boasts “highlights” such as a trips to Lourdes and Stonehenge in a ramshackle minibus.

During the opening scene the audience are introduced to occupant Diana Trent (Nicola McAuliffe), a woman who despises the title of senior citizen and all of the stereotypes that go with it. With no intention of slipping into old age quietly Diana focuses her energy on making life for Bayview manager Harvey Baines (Samuel Collins) as difficult as possible.

When playful ex-accountant Tom Ballard (Jeffrey Holland) moves into the apartment adjacent, Diana sees him as nothing but a boring man who has lived a boring life. Eager to change her opinion Tom decides to impress Diana by making a stand at dinner time – declaring the food inedible and marching to wage war against Baines. Confronted by Tom’s promises to “disembowel himself on the steps of the town hall” Baines resentfully increases budgeting on food, much to the delight of the other residents. Seeing an opportunity to gain a partner in crime Diana forms an alliance with Tom and the pair embark on a number of adventures together.

McAuliffe shows impeccable comic timing when delivering Diana’s razor-sharp wit

At times the play provides a touching insight to Diana’s frustrations. She’s a woman who, through her working years, gained a wealth of experience and knowledge, only to be seen by society now as a frail and incapable individual. When branded with the title of senior citizen by care provider Jane (Emily Pithon) Diana quips: “The Eastern people do not have senior citizens. They have elders whom they respect and revere and don’t try to shove under the carpet like some minor embarrassment!” McAuliffe shows impeccable comic timing when delivering Diana’s razor-sharp wit. Through her cutting intellect the audience are able to catch glimpses of softer emotions running through the character and McAuliffe is able to deliver a stern yet fragile persona.

Parts of the play felt rushed and the characters’ development suffered as a consequence – the relationship between Jane and Baines was excruciatingly silly. Jane follows Harvey throughout the production with puppy dog eyes and no regard for how she is treated. She spends the majority of her time among the residents of Bayview yet her character seemingly takes nothing from the experience and therefore the audience gain nothing from her presence other than a couple of sniggers at her insolence.

That said, the relationship between Tom and Diana is excellently portrayed and impressively scripted. The chemistry between the actors ensured plenty of laughs as upbeat, optimistic Tom battled against Diana’s cynicism and colourful language. Holland and McAuliffe created energy on stage while creating space for reflection on how years in later life might be for all of us.

Waiting for God is at the Lowry, Salford 2-8 July

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Waiting for God

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