Musical tales from the group home
Despite an unassuming premise – a duo perform nostalgic hits to an audience of senior citizens in a home – and a dark undercurrent of unfulfilled ambitions and frustrations, Paradise Lodge manages to be both charming and thoughtful. Examining questions of dementia and later life care, and offering a singalong session for fans of the sounds of WWII, Doodlebugs' production is a bracing journey that never panders to sentimentality.
Framing the show as the first gig by the new musical duo allows the company to roam around the stories of various patients. Across a series of short episodes, the people in the home lose their health, independence and memories while the musicians bicker and compete for attention.
Steve Cooper and Sophie Osborne excel as they jump between depicting the musicians, Eric and Kylie, and the patients and their families, lending a bravura edge to their understated portrayals of emotional longing and ill-health's frustrations. The tone is gentle, like the afternoon distraction that the musicians provide for the patients, but slowly exposes the horrors of old age. The tension between Eric and Kylie finds resolution, but not before a sad secret is revealed: for all the inappropriate interludes between songs – Eric frequently listing atrocities and battles as a way to contextualise their music – there is a warmth and compassion at the heart of the script and the performance.
Underbelly Bristo Square, until 26 Aug (not 12), 1.15pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).