Visitors review at Oldham Coliseum Theatre – ‘lovingly crafted’
First seen at London’s Arcola Theatre in 2014, Barney Norris’ play about a couple facing up to the fact that they can no longer stay in the house they’ve lived together in for more than 50 years won him a Critics’ Circle Theatre award for most promising playwright.
While it contains little in the way of earth-shattering insight or dramatic revelations, Norris’ acute ear for dialogue and adept character touches – inspired by his own grandparents – build to a touchingly rendered portrait of life-long love. Any sentimentality is tempered by a painfully accurate depiction of the tough choices faced by those caring for elderly loved ones, especially ones that come as a pair.
How Arthur and Edie playfully bicker, fuss over and look out for each other couldn’t feel more real, aided by assured performances from Robin Herford and Liz Crowther. Bolstered by Chris Lawson’s fluid direction, and despite the play’s more floridly verbose sections, their relationship seems as authentic as Sammy Dowson’s knick-knack-cluttered, lived-in front room set.
A narrative strand in which a free-spirited 20-something arrives as a live-in carer and then objects to the plans put in place for the couple rings less true, despite the efforts of Kitty Douglas breathing life into an underwritten role.
But the play is shifted up a gear by the presence of son Stephen – played with twitchy awkwardness by Ben Porter – who feels compelled to visit but is never made to feel completely welcome, as well as other quietly devastating moments, such as Edie’s realisation that the couple will never go on another holiday together.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.