Thingummy Bob (Traverse: 29 – 31 October ’15)

Karen Sutherland and John Edgar. Photo: Douglas Jones & Emma Quinn.

Karen Sutherland and John Edgar.
Photo: Douglas Jones & Emma Quinn.

“Go Bob, go!”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Nae Bad

A Lung Ha Theatre Company production in association with Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival.

Go looking for ‘Thingummy’ in a dictionary and you’ll find ‘Thing + a meaningless suffix, colloquial [since] 1751′. Well, there is nothing sketchy, meaningless or dated about this prize piece from writer Linda McLean and Lung Ha Theatre. It is plain, touching, and enjoyable; which is totally unsurprising when you learn that its title song is The Young Ones by Cliff Richard and The Shadows, 1962 (and counting). It is a bit mean of me to draw your attention to line 6, ‘For we won’t be the young ones very long’, but that’s the inescapable bit.

Bob (John Edgar) is in a wheelchair in a care home and is on a mission to rescue his LP records and what he can of his memory. He knows that he likes caramel wafers and is none too keen on pill popping. He loves his wife Audrey very much and wants to get back to their house but he cannot find his keys. He is determined, resourceful and witty and when he says “I do so mean it”, he does.

Binox (Karen Sutherland) has the job of keeping her eyes on Bob. She is the speaking voice of the care home’s security system and – binoculars trained – she would follow him wherever he goes. Charge Nurse (Kenneth Ainslie) and auxiliary Cap (Mark Howie) do their caring best and his niece Gemma (Emma McCaffrey) is always reassuring and kind but Bob can be hard to keep track of. The police get in on the act too. Bob’s other niece, Lesley (Karen Sutherland again), sends warm letters and postcards but she’s in Sydney, Aus. so really it’s down to his neighbour, Mrs Johnson (Kenneth Ainslie once more), to put the kettle on for when Bob makes it home.

It’s a fun pursuit that is made all the more engaging by the breadth and space of the set design by Karen Tennent. M C Escher squares and a revolving centre piece might suggest a board game – with rapping moves –  but the projection of photographs from Bob’s family album adds a whole new dimension. Personal really. Music by Philip Pinsky provides a catchy accompaniment, complete with scratches from those treasured 33s.

At one point, when Bob is trying to reach Audrey, Gemma says ‘”This is too sad”. It is and it isn’t, which is the appeal of ‘Thingummy Bob’. McLean’s script is clever, switching from the short and conversational – especially Cap’s serial “Aye’s” – to the longer, more considered and reflective sequencing of Binox and Lesley. Certainly the issues of aging and dementia are well in place but it is Bob’s story and Edgar’s performance that hold the stage as he wheels around it.

Artistic director Maria Oller and Movement Director Janis Claxton find great, sympathetic, cheer from this closing couplet of ‘The Young Ones’, ‘And some day when the years have flown / Darling, this will teach the young ones of our own’. Go Bob, go!

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Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 30 October)

Go to Lung Ha Theatre Company and Luminate

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