Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! at Battersea Arts Centre
Ridiculusmus’s play about ageing starts slowly, very slowly. And the use of this adverb couldn’t be more appropriate. Even in its superlative form, it doesn’t sufficiently describe the actual pace of the entrance of Violet (Jon Haynes) and Norman (David Woods). At the centre of the show is this extremely old couple who, despite the motoric and language difficulties they face due to their many years, maintain their spirits and keep their relationship entertaining.
The two members of the company give incredibly real performances in their dusty roles. From movement in slow motion to repetitive gestures, from broken dialogue to corporeal sounds, it’s evident that a great study of the body and behaviour of elderly people has been carried out behind the scenes. The semi-worn wooden walls and the antique ceiling of Battersea Arts Centre create an apt setting for the protagonists, who are then only in need of a few props and a table with two chairs to carry out their moderate interactions.
The programme for the evening offers ordinary activities: drinking coffee, taking pills, love exchanges, eating, phone calls. Most certainly, the majority of the audience would spot how many times the work could have gone wrong – whether in the hint of a laugh from one partner or in a motion that comes across as too young in the steps or dialogue. The acting effort required is considerable. However, a more solid script would have definitely raised the bar of the production overall. There are a lot of messages that have to be read between the lines, and when added to the very moderate rhythm, they contribute towards a performance that can be pretty difficult to assimilate. For almost half of the play, it looks like core plot points are still to come. And although the final part features an extra kick, this isn’t enough to satisfy the expectations which have been built up so far. Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! is a show in the waiting, and it eventually bears fruit.
Photo: Bryony Jackson
Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! is at Battersea Arts Centre from 8th until 25th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.