Forever Young

Fri 17th – Fri 24th August 2012


Ella Griffiths

at 22:56 on 23rd Aug 2012



If ‘Forever Young’ were an edible product, it would be marketed as a high-energy sugar fix offering bursts of saccharine joy on demand to combat daily lethargy. As a result, the play should come with a health warning advising cynics and pessimists to stay well clear, lest they invoke the wrath of the brightly coloured and hyper-wholesome cast.

Describing a couple’s childhood memories through the mediums of live music, acting and dance, it cannot be denied that the production is a effervescent and inventive exploration of memory. The band is fabulous, creating a toe-tapping celebratory atmosphere and showing an immense versatility that compensates for the clichéd script by lighting up the stage. From ukulele solos to vigorous renditions of famous songs from the 1950s and 1960s, they are a credit to the creative efforts of musical director James Frewer. Even if the dance interludes sometimes fail to integrate perfectly with the dramatic scenes, they still offer a vital burst of physicality that vivifies the limp interaction between characters. This choreography is similarly smooth and well-executed, especially in the evocative mirroring of the lead couple in various stages of life that visually packs the stage with life and movement.

However, the kitsch and idealistic nostalgia pervading the play soon leave the actors prone to stilted and hackneyed dialogue, making their initial vibrancy garish and forced. Although the artistic intention seems entirely genuine and enthusiastic, this discussion of youthful relationships eschews visceral affection in favour of trite exchanges and faux-profound statements. While the central pair both show great promise in capturing moments of teenage awkwardness and affection, the vaguely patronising situations constrain their potential and leave them with a predictable and musical-friendly glow. Since members of the audience were wiping their eyes at poignant moments, perhaps this is the kind of play that needs to be fully embraced in spite of its gushing sentimentality, as a guilty pleasure akin to watching 'High School Musical'.

Nevertheless, this is a talented group of actors in need of a refreshing script that could have examined quirky and resonating aspects of youth in a more persuasive and less idealistic fashion. Saved by the quality of the live music that elevated it from a dull play into a warm-hearted but flawed piece of theatre, this bright-eyed attempt at treasuring youth nonetheless has its energetic heart in the right place.


Charlie Brookhouse

at 00:32 on 24th Aug 2012



'Forever Young' is a rose tinted trip to the sweet shop. Girls in brightly coloured dresses frolic with slightly effeminate boys, manipulating ribbons into a sort of children’s den. It transpires that these are the projections of a married couple’s memories of falling in love. A live band soundtracks the sequence of these scenes with a medley of songs, from The Rolling Stones and The Kinks through to Jackson 5. A musical maturation from predominantly acoustic through to electric amplification increases the volume as the retold narrative nears the present. As progressively more time is given to studying their combined memories, they realise that what they fundamentally have in common is a mutual capacity for self-delusion. Unfortunately, this relativising gesture manifests in clumsy attempts to articulate the perplexity of a reason/passion double-bind: ‘I’m not in love with her any more. I just love her.’; ‘We’ve never had to try this hard.’

The live band of 'Forever Young' is a well-oiled machine and it has clearly mastered a number of difficult cues in which conversational junctures are snappily filled with song teasers. For the majority of the play, however, the musicians perform no dramatic function and during this time they do that awkward self-conscious non-acting thing. Given that they occupy a large part of the stage space, they could work a little more at not looking like they’re attending the funeral of a distant relative.

It is an ambitious thing to do to encourage a performance to explore love in the abstract. 'Forever Young'’s recourse to non-linguistic media, auditory and kinaesthetic, may tug at the heart-strings but it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. The actors and actresses provide polished and mature interpretations of young characters, but perhaps this play is itself a little precocious.

Irrespective of any weaknesses in the premise of 'Forever Young', a string of foot-tapping numbers and well-coordinated scenes will endear you to the spectacle. The music offsets the domestic neuroses that repeatedly see good intentions realised in devastating faux pas. If there is a message to derive from it all, it’s that we should all fill our lives with a little less thought and a little more music.


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