This play by Timothy Mason was originally presented in 1996 and it was one of the finest productions and happiest experiences I have ever known in the theatre. People left feeling radiant afterwards.
We were gifted with three fine actors in their seventies to play Ada, Inga and Orville. It is rare indeed to find such troupers prepared to work on the Fringe.
Since one always has to pay for pleasure, in the last week at the Diorama in Camden we discovered there was a thief in the company. We never found his or her identity, and the actual thefts stopped once people started locking their valuables away, but the poison of distrust was already sprinkled.
We rehearsed in a bizarre pub by the Homerton Canal which was on the brink of closure. In the two weeks we were there we saw no customers at all. Rumour was that it was involved in gangland activity.
The temporary manager had obviously been a boxer, and judging from the state of his ears, not a very good one.
Nevertheless, he treasured a fantasy of opening the pub as a restaurant and cooked enormous turkey dinners for the whole cast at a very cheap rate.
The set, one of the best and most solid we ever had, was built by Mike Parker, a highly respected harpist and harp restorer in another life. The atmospheric lighting design was by his partner, Richard Desmond, whom I first met as a 17-year-old working in the leather bar Heaven in the early 80s.
It occupied the whole of the upstairs room before being dismantled and taken to Chat's Palace for the opening of the Pride Arts Festival.
I don't like to direct and act in a play simultaneously, but I found this extremely easy. So precise and full was the script, and so rounded a character was Arthur Dahl.
The rest of the cast came from auditions, since all our regulars of the previous five years had moved on, or in Simon Kennett's case, died.
Peter Scott-Presland (March 2021)
The script is available for performance by other companies.
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Read: Interview with Tim Mason and Peter Scott-Presland
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View the YouTube recording of the performance.
Written by Timothy Mason
Cast (in order of appearance)
The central character in this American Midwest drama is a gay man suffering from a mid-life crisis. His lover has left him and he is afraid of the fact that his elderly parents will probably die in the near future.
Returning home to the family house, with a swing chair on the porch and muffins rising in the oven, he is confronted by friends, family and even his father’s 130-year-old primary teacher. Magic and realism and shooting stars in the night sky collide before the point is driven home about letting go and the acceptance of the inevitability of death.
If this sounds like one of the quirkier episodes of The Golden Girls, you know, the ones where the girls all get to play themselves at different times in their lives, and time really gets screwed up, all in the name of making a point about their lives now, then that’s how it comes across.
Unfortunately, it’s not half as funny as it thinks it is and is played too tentatively by everyone involved. Except that is for Eric Presland, who doubles duties as the man’s father and the play’s director. Well-intentioned but stodgy, this is a play about levitation which fails to soar.
QX Magazine, 21 June 1996
Joe Dahl is suffering from a mid-life crisis and middle-aged spread. His lover, Paul, has left him, and his work in New York consists of writing terrible tabloid headlines. Having reached the end of his tether he goes home to touch base with his parents.
Arriving in a mythical American Midwest in the early hours of the morning, he finds his retired preacher father sitting on the porch watching shooting stars.
They stay up all night, debating concepts of memory and identity, and are gradually joined by family and friends, including Joe’s father’s primary school teacher, who claims to be 130 years old.
Timothy Mason wrote this fine play as an attempt to come to terms with the inevitability of his own parents’ deaths. But this isn’t just a slice of American cheese; it’s a genuinely moving mix of magic and realism, which, though undeniably feel-good, is so free of cliché that you need not feel bad about liking it. Catch this Homo Promos production if you can.
Kevin Harley, Pink Paper 14 June 1996