The Oldest Man in Catford
New Town Theatre
Quidem Production’s The Oldest Man in Catford is a total delight. It is both beautifully and skilfully written and directed by Ade Morris who cleverly uses humour and a riveting storyline to propel his two characters on a journey of discovery and is performed with panache by two consummate actors.
106-year-old Reg Thorn lives alone following his wife’s demise from cancer in 1966. Stewart Howson, in a sterling performance, perfectly captures the old man’s physicality and fears of the SS—that’s social security—“putting him into an old folk’s prison”—well really a home.
Reg addresses the audience directly giving some in depth snippets of his past life and hopes for the future although that is mainly about dying as he is fed up continuing to live with all the problems that old age brings although he “still has his marbles.”
He relies on his great granddaughter Julie, superbly portrayed by Alice Fyles, to look after his needs bringing posh cakes from Waitrose and exotic ready meals that Reg hates and throws away or leaves outside for the foxes.
Reg is a die-hard Daily Telegraph-reading Conservative in contrast to Julie’s opposite political alliances.
When she forgets to change a light bulb, Reg decides that he can do it, with catastrophic results.
However Julie also has problems as her relationship with her boyfriend Jason has broken down and she eventually moves in with Reg to become his carer. Both have to make major adjustments: will it be Radio 4 or a wide-screen television?
Reg reveals that he was invalided out of the 11th Armoured Division and was apparently a hero, but there are deep, dark secrets that have been kept hidden for all these years.
Once the press get hold of the fact that Reg becomes the oldest man in Britain and pursue him, the truth begins to emerge.
I really can’t reveal what happens next, but it is dramatic, surprising and utterly absorbing.
This is a poignant, moving and indeed uplifting theatre piece and I urge you to see this excellent production. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Robin Strapp