Waiting For God is play based on the BBC television comedy written by Michael Aitkens. The story is set in the fictional Bayview Retirement Home near Bournemouth, UK. The original television series ran for five series in the 1990s, but the play is set in a more current period.
The story focuses around Bayview resident Diana Trent. Diana is a retired photo-journalist who has led an adventurous life. Diana is a strong-minded, single woman and her only remaining relative is her niece, Sarah, who regularly visits her aunt. The retirement home is managed by Harvey Baines, who is more interested in his own wealth and status in society than the quality of life of his residents, and is constantly at odds with the outspoken and cantankerous Diana. Despite his self-absorbed personality, his assistant, Jane, is madly in love with Harvey and desperate to marry him. When a new resident arrives at Bayview, Diana soon discovers she has found a friend and ally in Tom Ballard.
The majority of the play is set in the Bayview retirement home, with a quality and detailed set (designed by Chris Leopard) immediately setting the scene. A revolving stage allowed for a variety of other settings, and allowed for some fast and efficient scene changes. A good lighting/sound design (Robin Le Blond) created ambience and sense of time of day.
There were a few technical glitches on opening night, and while the acting was superbly executed, it felt like the play needed just a couple more run-throughs to bring the technical elements up to the same high standard. This will no doubt settle with a few more performances and result in an excellent theatrical experience. Despite all this. the acting more than made up for any technical shortcomings.
Annie Laurenson is outstanding as Diana Trent. Her performance is worth the admission price alone. Laurenson brilliantly encapsulates all of Diana’s quirky qualities into a very believable character, managing to balance the cantankerous brashness with enough warmth and heart.
Playing opposite is Chris Hodson as Tom Ballard. Hodson is instantly likeable, a little mischievous, and certainly rather cheeky. Laurenson and Hodson share a lovely on-stage chemistry.
Dawn Risdale is a delightully naive Jane, while Lindsay Fletcher is brilliant as the self-absorbed Harvey. Colin Morley is wonderful as Geoffrey Ballad and Rosa Leonardi brings a beautiful warmth to her portrayal of Sarah. Rounding out the cast are Christopher Newport, Arzu Yilmaz and Kate Deavin.
Experienced director Neil Barnett has delivered an hilarious production that had the audience in fits of laughter, with enough material to also prompt some deeper thought about how we view our “senior citizens”. While the play is based on the BBC TV comedy, the play works as a stand alone story and audiences not already familiar with this series will enjoy it just as much as fans of the show.
Waiting For God is now playing at the 1812 Theatre in Upper Ferntree Gully.