[THEATRE: Review] Old Man
Until July 15 / Belvoir Street
So often in the theatre, the storylines seemed contrived. The plot turns seem unlikely, the characters seem over the top, and you just end up thinking “that would never happen.” Sometimes that’s totally fine and absolutely the point, but in other cases, supposed ‘naturalism’ is anything but natural. Old Man’s greatest success is that it never feels forced, despite dealing with some pretty emotional material. Each moment of fear or heartbreak is truthfully rendered by a great cast, under the perfectly measured direction of Anthea Williams.
Set in Newtown, Old Man brings us into the mind of Daniel (Leon Ford) a youngish father who along with his wife Sam (Alison Bell) are bringing up their kids (Tom Usher and Madeleine Benson) in the inner city. Daniel’s father left him when he was barely a child and the play centres on his fear of history repeating. It plays out more as a study in the aftershocks of leaving a family and as such, leaves the audience with more than a few scenarios to ponder.
Despite not being autobiographical, the play is obviously deeply personal, with playwright Matthew Whittet creating a nuanced family full of love, frustration and confusion. Williams and the cast have brought them to life with the same amount of love with which they were written; the family dynamic is perfect among the four as we watch the siblings fight and the parents cave.
The acting is truly superb. Ford’s central performance is outstanding as he takes us from the extreme paranoia to extreme charm (the scene where he is doing his son’s homework is too adorable), while Bell allows us into Sam’s vulnerability with apparent ease. Even Usher and Benson seem perfectly at home in the intimate downstairs theatre, which is the perfect setting for this sort of life-laid-bare production.