Theatre review: The Lounge

A dangerously unstable farce about growing old
A dangerously unstable farce about growing old
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First world problems: there are plenty of them about on this year’s Fringe.

The Lounge

Summerhall (Venue 26)


First world problems: there are plenty of them about on this year’s Fringe. And of all the issues that trouble the relatively healthy and wealthy societies of the west, there’s none greater than the care and nurturing of elderly people, now that we tend routinely to live for nine decades and more.

Created by Inspector Sands – famous on the Fringe for their surreal and hilarious shows about contemporary life – The Lounge is a show about what may be the last day of the life of a 97-year-old woman, Marsha Hewitt, who finds herself transferred into care after a fall at home. Marsha is very frail but strong-minded; so faced with the patronising kindliness of the staff, and what she sees as the idiocy and pettiness of the other residents, she dreams of escape, and soon spots an opportunity.

The Lounge is written and devised by performers Lucinka Eisler, Giulia Innocenti and Ben Lewis, with director Lu Kemp, and uses visual images, dream-like sequences and an element of pure fantasy to raise issues about the devastating loss of a sense of autonomy and status which can come with a move into care. There’s also a sharp look at the money-making economics of modern elderly care; and Eisler is unfailingly brilliant as Marsha, funny, clever, and breathtakingly moving, particularly when – in dreams and memory – she evokes the beautiful, powerful young woman Marsha once was.

It’s hard, though, to garner much of a message of hope from this ruthless depiction of what happens to people at the far end of life; and in a society where “assisted suicide” for those who are suffering is becoming an ever more popular solution, I have a feeling that it might be more radical, for once, to show how an elderly life can be made meaningful, rather than to emphasise once again the painful situation so many now face in their old age.

Joyce McMillan

Until 27 August. Today 3:25pm.