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Waiting for God review at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – ‘a smooth but slight sitcom update’

Nichola McAuliffe in Waiting For God at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford Nichola McAuliffe in Waiting For God at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
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Age is all about perspective. When Michael Aitkens’ sitcom Waiting for God originally aired in the early 1990s, the public had a very different view about how older people should behave.

Aitkens’ stage adaptation may have been updated to include wifi and laptops but it still blesses the senior citizens of the Bayview Retirement Home with a resilient nature amid failing health and incompetent management.

Watching the play is a little like bingeing on a box-set, or more accurately reminiscing over a ‘best bits’ special, where none of the characters are properly fleshed out but you get the gist.

The laughter still comes thick and fast, mostly thanks to the razor sharp timing of Nichola McAuliffe as Diana, a role made memorable on television by Stephanie Cole.

Despite the play’s episodic structure, it’s Diana’s journey that engages us and McAuliffe excels as the curmudgeonly resident.

It seems however that everybody else is there to provide Diana with a punch-line. Jeffrey Holland, stepping in when veteran performer Roy Hudd fell ill, plays the amiable buffoon Tom fairly well but there not much to get his teeth into.

David Benson is woefully under-used as Tom’s cuckolded son Geoffrey but it’s the cartoonish relationship between Samuel Collings’ conniving manager Baines and Emily Pithon’s lovelorn Jane that jars the most.

The pair provide a much broader comedy that may have worked on the small screen but lacks credibility on stage. David Grindley’s smooth direction creates a seamless piece of theatre but there’s more depth in Jonathan Fensom’s composite set than there is in Aitkens’ script.

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