Monday, 3 August 2009

Review: Antimacassars and Ylang Ylang Conditioner by Ian Potter

Ian Potter's engaging play is the bittersweet story of eightysomething Frank, whose day goes wrong when he sets out to buy vital supplies - a jar of coffee, and a marker pen to help him catch whoever's been helping themselves. It quickly becomes clear that Frank's a little confused, and that both his dog-ferrying neighbour "Mrs Johnson" and Dave the road digger are familiar with his rapidly shifting moods.

But Frank's vulnerability isn't overegged in a story that subtly defends the dignity of older people without preaching, or reaching for the sentimentality hose. And, intriguingly, the vulnerability of the young is an equally strong theme. When Frank is targeted by two schoolboys who need to raise some cash in a hurry, we worry about his entrapment - but we feel as much for the moral limitations of the lads. If it's difficult being old, it's difficult being young too.

The plot takes us on a journey that covers only a small geographical distance, but which deftly suggests Frank's entire life and his attitudes to change. The play also manages to convey a real sense of the physical experience of age, partly of course through Russell Dixon's spirited performance, but also through the constant presence of Frank's shopping basket on wheels - a prop in more than the theatrical sense.

Frank ...... Russell Dixon
Ewan ...... Stephen Hoyle
Nick ...... Reece Noi
Mrs Johnson ...... Sue Ryding
Shopkeeper ...... Balvinder Sopal
Dave ...... Greg Wood
Jiri/Rob ...... Matt McGuirk

Directed in Manchester by Gary Brown and broadcast on Monday 27 July 2009, 14:15 on BBC Radio 4.

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