Vera, a vivacious 78-year-old woman, meets the sedate 21-year-old Rosie – the two brought together by a ‘befriend the elderly’ scheme. In the next hour, the audience watches a light-hearted comedy unfold, tracking the progression of the relationship between the two women.
The script is very well-written by Vicki Sargent, who also plays Rosie. She likes to spend her time baking and cooking, and is reasonably happy in her job at the local café. The death of her nan, whom she was very close to, prompts her to sign up to the befriending scheme, and she ends up paired with Vera, played by Janet Garner.
Vera, on the other hand, is full of life, used to be a dancer in burlesque shows in Paris, and definitely prefers whisky over tea. Her crippling arthritis keeps her from going on adventures, but she is clearly up for them still. At the start, she is bitter towards Rosie, riled by her constant upbeat demeanour and complete complacency with her quiet life. But slowly, each starts to make progress towards the other.
But will Vera ever fill the void left by Rosie’s nan? How will Rosie change at the end of this encounter? And will some of them rub off on each other? The production answers all these questions in a light-hearted, comical way. It is difficult to guess that this is Garner’s first acting foray, as she completely charms the audience throughout the play.
A minor point is that if the two had swapped seats mid-way, the whole audience would have had an opportunity to experience both performances to the full. As it was, I witnessed all of Sargent’s facial expressions, but only saw Garner always from the side.
This show almost begs for an ending that isn’t humorous. I find myself steeling myself at the thought of what was going to happen when the weekly visits for whatever reason end. And I am convinced that what we see isn’t a happy ending. But the show navigates it well, and whether it's as hard-hitting as it would have been with a different outcome – well, you can be the judge of that.
Regardless of what you decide, and regardless of your background, this show from Sargent Productions promises universal appeal and touches on a problem faced by our entire society. A great piece of theatre.