Theatre review: Paradise Lodge, Underbelly - Bristo, Edinburgh

Eric (Steve Cooper) and Kylie (Sophie Osborne) are double-act The Doodlebugs, cranking out 1940s hits for the care home circuit.

Steve Cooper draws on his experiences caring for his elderly mother-in-law for Paradise Lodge

Paradise Lodge, Underbelly - Bristo, Edinburgh * * * *

Today’s gig is at the optimistically named Paradise Lodge where half the audience is asleep and the other half wears plastic pants; as Kylie wryly observes, “the walking dead without the walking”.Kylie is the latest in a line of Eric’s stage partners. The others couldn’t hack the daily confrontation with infirmity, and soon neither can she. Eric, however, has real compassion for the individuals he sees locked in ageing bodies, and a passion for the way the old songs can awaken their damaged memories.

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Between renditions of Bye, Bye, Blackbird and Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?, and the sotto voce bickering of the double-act, we see snapshots of the lives of residents Ronnie and Vi as they gradually lose their memories and their capacity to care for themselves.

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Though Cooper, at times, exudes a desperate cheerfulness, and Osborne can be overly shrill, Paradise Lodge is a compassionate, unflinching look at old age, while in the context of a musical comedy. Informed by real experience, it takes us to places we’d rather not go, and reminds us that they still contain kindness and humanity.

Until 26 August