Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Cooper and Aylott

Carl Horton as Cooper and Roger Shepherd as Aylott

A Month of Sundays

Grange Players

Grange Playhouse


John Cooper is a jolly if a little cantankerous, dirty, or at least a risqué old man, living an outwardly contented life in a rather up market residential care home somewhere in Surrey.

It is a life structured around his institutionalised timetable of mealtimes, along with visits by Nurse Wilson and the daily cleaning lady, Mrs Baker, both part of the Panzer division he has invented to give a light-hearted air to defend against the regimented routine of his life.

And then there is fellow resident Michael Aylott, with his regular as clockwork morning, afternoon and evening visits for meetings of the escape committee.

Carl Horton as Cooper is superb, it is a huge part, on stage for the whole three hours (except for regular pees) and he gives his charge convincing life as a resident in a facility the like of which in the past has been colloquially termed God’s waiting room. It is a performance worth the price of a ticket alone, funny, witty, with telling glances and asides as he holds up his shield against a bleak reality. 

nurse wilson

Cooper with Rachel Holmes as Nurse Wilson

His partner in crime, or at least modest rebellion, is Roger Shepherd’s Aylott, in another fine performance. The pair are like best friend schoolboys laughing away at inventive flights of fancy such as their PoW style escape committee planning breaks for freedom across the border to Switzerland.

Then there are their sponsored inflatable urostomy bags to allow you to float like the Michelin man when the need for bladder surgery arrives, while to solve the getting up problem, how about carefully positioned hydraulic chairs to catapult you into bed when evening comes.

There have been other plays set in the world of residential homes, played for laughs, comedies such as Quartet or Heroes, but those are like geriatric Just William and his Outlaws, residents of more mature years rebelling against authority, with an overriding air of triumph.

Bob Larbey’s play is a comedy, with plenty of laughs, but it can also be more personal, tolling a bell in the minds of many who recognise friends and relatives in the life on stage, while as the age of those in the audience increases the closer to home and the darker a comedy it becomes.

You see, old age is a privilege, a privilege only afforded to those who manage to reach it and not all the body fully appreciates that milestone, or some might say millstone.

The back, hips and especially knees have to be cajoled into action again when you stand up; the bladder, so long a rear stage spear carrier in life, demands a bigger part with far more regular and sometimes more urgent appearances

Meanwhile the mind is in danger of overflowing after storing a lifetime of memories so decides to jettison names and places to make room for new information arriving daily, the only problem being it is using an updated filing system you don’t quite understand, making finding anything a tad difficult. 

Mrs Baker

Ruth Bosman as Mrs Baker despairing once more at the indefatigable Cooper

It is the familiar path journeyed to oblivion by those who Cooper and Aylott describe as Zombies, the residents who have succumbed to dementia, the latest being George Hartley, paddling in the pond in his blue suit.

The first Sunday in the month brings another cross for Cooper to bear, the monthly visit of daughter Julia, played by Esther Horton, (Carl’s wife incidentally - he’s really not as old as he looks), and her husband Peter, played with the air of a rabbit caught in headlights by Rod Bissett.

It is two fine performances. Horton gives us a Julia who wants conversation with her father but has nothing to talk about, nothing in common, while Bissett is on the fringe trying to be helpful, even patronising without meaning to be, avoiding any hint of controversy, smoothing any potential bump in the road.

The relationship is uneasy. Cooper dreads them coming and you suspect they turn up only out of duty and would rather remain at home in Milton Keynes deciding upon their extension rather than discussing the roadworks and merits of the M1 over the A5 with Cooper whose life has nothing new to report apart from the odd death of a resident.

Act 1 sets the scene. Cooper has little or no relationship with his family and his family are now more Aylott along with Mrs Baker and Nurse Wilson.

It is a wonderful performance from cleaner and nurse. Ruth Bosman’s Baker is offhand with Cooper, yet she cleans his room despite it not being one on her list, there is no romance but underneath her offhand manner you suspect Cooper is one of her favourites, one of the interesting ones.

son in law

Son-in-law Peter, played by Rod Bissett gives Cooper a hand watched by daughter Julia played by Esther Horton

There is no doubting Nurse Wilson’s favourite resident though in another fine performance from Rachel Holmes. Cooper flirts with her relentlessly with that bawdiness only the elderly can get away with. Wilson has real affection for Cooper, and he for her, a friendship beyond nurse patient relationship. She is perhaps seen more as the daughter he craves than his distant and seemingly unfeeling own offspring.

Cooper might be her favourite, but she cares for all the residents, even driven to tears when George’s recruitment to the zombies leaves him abandoned by his sister.

After the interval the light-hearted banter, the sparring with Julia, the flirting with Nurse Wilson might still be there, but there is a sadness and a poignancy creeping in. Cooper’s cloak of bravado, the plucky resident, life and soul and all that is stripped away in a moving heart to heart with his daughter about life, fears and his pain over his long dead wife. Julia finally has her conversation as hidden emotions from all sides are set free.

Then there is Aylott and tempus fugit. Cooper and Aylott have a quest in life, to remember the eleventh man in Middlesex’s 1947 county championship winning cricket team, and a loose pact, that Cooper won’t start peeing his pants until Aylott starts losing his mind.

At least the quest still remains as the curtain falls. This is a beautiful acted, wonderfully funny, painfully sad piece of theatre, sensitively directed by Kerry Jones on a fine directorial debut and setting an incredibly high bar for the rest of the new season. To 24-09-22.

Roger Clarke


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