Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! At the Battersea Arts Centre is a dark comedy about love and aging, brought to life by the talented Ridiculusmus Theatre Company. It looks at the end of life, taking a dark, and at times painful to watch, approach to the challenges and delights at this last part of life.
The scene is set from the off, a fifteen minute walk across the stage while a clock ticks ominously and loudly. The couple we meet don’t say a word in this period, but we are made painfully aware of their fragility and age as they slowly shuffle from one side to the other.
It becomes quite clear during this sequence that the audience is very much split into two groups – those that find this funny, and those that most certainly do not. I regretfully fall into the latter; the depictions of the elderly mannerisms and challenges are too realistic and too close to home for me to laugh at. I feel as though I’m watching a beloved (and recently deceased) relative shuffling across the stage, and knowing the challenges they faced in that stage of their life prevents me from finding it funny to laugh at them.
That’s not to say others don’t enjoy it – they clearly do. There’s a lot of laughter to be had, and some of the more clever parts of the production are quite funny – but they largely centre around when we’re laughing with the aged, rather than at them. A read-out of online sympathy messages is a fantastically insightful capture of the absurdity of internet communication. Then there’s an oddball scene of sneakily eating food with chopsticks that’s a joy – but the reliance on soliciting laughs around fart jokes and burps and the sex acts (no, really), is surprisingly crass for a production that has given so much thought in other areas.
There’s also some visual work here which is lovely, with lighting and shadows adding an extra dimension to the performance. There’s an absolute star turn from David Woods as an elderly man – his posture, his face, his movements are flawless and insanely accurate. But it is a performance of many pieces – some good, some bad, some beautiful, and some ugly – and that does seem to be the point in the production. It’s an exploration of love and ageing that moves between the crass and the somber, and enables the audience to engage with the pieces they like.
It’s hard to tell who exactly this is for, but when it comes to dark comedies, it does largely fit the bill – just be prepared that when it comes to cutting close to the bone, the margins are beyond paper thin.
Written and Directed by: David Woods and Jon Haynes
Produced by: Ridiculusmus
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45235/whats_on/whats_on/shows/die_die_die_old_people_die
Booking Until: 25 May 2019