The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch presents a bittersweet comedy about growing old in 1980’s Britain from writer Bob Larbey who penned such television delights as The Good Life for BBC, and A Fine Romance for ITV.
The story revolves entirely around Cooper, a delightful, ageing, middle-class gentleman, in his room at a care home and his Sunday routine. Cooper’s mind is as sharp as a razor, but he struggles with those simple physical tasks we take for granted, like getting out of a chair, or tying shoelaces. He hates having any of these things done for him but is resigned to his situation and makes the best of it by passing the time of day sharing his frustrations amusingly with those who enter his one-room-world.
His friend, fellow resident Aylott on the other hand, is suffering from the early signs of dementia, and he and Cooper share many a ‘cotton wool’ moment as Cooper struggles to help Aylott to remember simple things. Young nurse Wilson sets Cooper’s pulse racing, while the ever so cheerful cleaning lady Mrs Baker, is suitably whimsical with her duster and her carpet-sweeper, serenading Cooper and occasionally dancing with him. Then there are the obligatory visits from Cooper’s – we’d rather not be here, we’d rather be somewhere else – daughter Julia and her husband Peter, who have travelled all the way from Milton Keynes to see him, but feel awkward and out of place from the moment they arrive.
If you are of a certain age you will easily connect with this show although it is primarily viewed from a male perspective. The performances are solid and you’ll laugh at some of the lines, enjoy the moments when Cooper teases and flirts with his young nurse, and perhaps feel a tinge of sadness when Aylott’s dementia worsens, and he appears to be losing his mind. You might think you’ve lost yours when the lights suddenly flash, the room darkens and each of the characters are suddenly transformed by a series of strange guises, appearing out of wardrobes and other odd places. These depictions are from the deep recesses of Cooper’s mind while he naps, and become increasingly bizarre, ranging from him suited and booted as gun-toting James Bond 007, to indecipherable apparitions involving Aylott as a punk rocker on skis, and an unforgettable scene with daughter and son-in-law both dressed as nuns, and all with matching musical accompaniment. There’s even a nod to the famous wartime duo of Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen with a movement to their little ditty ‘Miss You’.
The cast includes Gareth Clarke as Peter, Robin Hooper as Aylott, William Hoyland as Cooper, Anna Leong Brophy as Wilson, Sophie Russell as Julia, and Connie Walker as Mrs Baker. A Month of Sundays is directed by Russell Bolam and the designer is Anthony Lamble.
The Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane in Hornchurch invites you to see this production which runs until 15th October. For ticket price details and show times visit queens-theatre.co.uk or call 01708 443333.
Photo shows Robin Hooper as Aylott (foreground), William Hoyland as Cooper (seated), and Anna Leong Brophy as Nurse Wilson.
Hear Ros Connors chatting with Robin Hooper (Aylott) about the show by clicking the ‘play’ button.