New life in old legs

You're Only Young Twice

Wolverhampton Grand

***

IN RECENT years Ian Dickens Productions seem to have found considerable success in filling the British theatre with the type of plays that seem squarely and comfortably aimed at an older audience.

Billed as a `hilarious' star comedy You're Only Young Twice is not only aimed at the older generation but it is about them.  Written by Ron Aldridge it gathers together a sprightly set of widowers' just days before one of the couple's wedding.

Brooksie played by Melvyn Hayes is the thrill seeking  pensioner who much to the disgust of his friends and family has found  a new lease of energy following the loss of his beloved wife Grace.

The idea has the scope for all sorts of crazy goings on but mostly the action is with everyone seated and just has them all reminiscing the good old days. Brooksie, rather than offering any newer or deeper perspective on his condition, spends most of his time just poking fun at everyone.

It's a pleasant sit-com style atmosphere but the writing is flat and predictable throughout mentioning some very tired subjects. There is the trouble with teenagers dressing in short skirts and makeup and that's just the boys, public transport and the lack of it and they don't make films like they used to for instance Gone with the Wind?

Considering the play was written in 2001 and the events of that year and with the start of a new millennium, one would have thought that there might have been far more interesting subjects to have them all to comically gripe on about, other than the state of teenage dress sense and the buses.

COMIC TIMING

Despite that though Melvyn Hayes does a wonderful job at bringing his experience and comic timing to the production. At 77 he looked as fresh as ever undertaking some quite physical moments in the play with ease.  

Dramatically the turning point came with the introduction of the spirit of his deceased wife Grace (Ingrid Evans) who enters the scene mostly while Brooksie is alone and the interplay between the two of them was skilful and touching.

The ghostly conversation between them left us at the end of the first act with the possibility that Brooksie was going to reveal his true nature to his friends. Unfortunately that never came as the second half was mostly a long drawn out explanation of the stag do and the boozy happenings of the night before. There is only so long you can take at watching someone try to remember the facts while suffering from a hangover and again it was only Hayes' ability at physical comedy that lifted the closing scene.

Katy Manning, the once sexy assistant to Jon Pertwee's Doctor Who, played Rose, Brooksie's possible new suitor. Her sharp delivery and feisty performance rescued many parts of the play that otherwise would have just seen us sitting in on some pleasant chat.

You're Only Young Twice is hardly the Bucket List of a second life opportunity that it sets out to tell us all about, but it is worth going along to see how a very skilled cast can turn some pleasant but flimsy writing into solid entertainment.  Jeff Grant 

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