BENEATH THE BLUE RINSE at London's Park Theatre90
Marlene Sidaway (Flora) and Kevin Tomlinson (Simon): photo Ben Wilkin

How could I resist? In its billing is the claim that Beneath The Blue Rinse is a wickedly funny high octane comedy about growing old passionately and disgracefully, where Tarantino meets Last of The Summer Wine. Written by Tom Glover, selected as one of three winners of the 2018 BAFTA/Rocliffe New Writing Showcase Competition and directed by Glen Walford, Beneath The Blue Rinse sets out to challenge the stereotypical cliche that surrounds the elderly and to show that 'age is no barrier to radicalism and relevance.'

Against the media slamming of the elderly, of the 'post war baby boomer generation' who are accused of undeservedly finding life less hard than it was back in the 1950s, it is about time that the vicious and barbed accusations aimed at this senior sector of society are replaced with a more relevant perspective.

Daily there are instances of the elderly being abused or exploited by those seeking to take advantage of their vulnerability or naive trust. Well, guess what, not all are susceptible to trickery and here is where the story starts. Security Advisor (not wishing to call himself a salesperson) Simon Sudgebury, played brilliantly by Kevin Tomlinson, is a cocky salesperson, a sort of Del Boy character, who exudes fake charm and arrogant confidence but comes a cropper when he sets out to cheat 75 year old Flora Parkin (Marlene Sidaway) by scaring her into buying an expensive Multi Model Security System. She may be 75 and in his opinion a 'silly bint' but quickly it is apparent that she is more a feisty old girl who refuses to be victim to the likes of Sudgebury and seeks revenge on such individuals. With her sex lover, 72 year old George (Ian Redford) there are surprises in store.

Designed by Felix Waters,the set (surrounded on three sides) is the cosy sitting room of septuagenarian Flora Parkin whose family portraits adorn the walls and whose dresser holds myriads of china pieces collected lovingly over a period of 40 years (dusting nightmare) suggesting a comfortable and settled old age. There we meet Sudgebury who is keen to gain his £2000 commission from his sale. But from the off it is clear that she is not the typical, naive and vulnerable stereotype he had anticipated. 

Irreverently funny in the fist half hour or so, there are laugh out loud moments and the audience were having a ball, enjoying every quip and joke. But the humour soon wanes as we enter the second phase of this one act Dark Comedy for it is here that Glover pushes through his message and exposes the high levels of abuse that many elderly are experiencing on a daily basis. Despite the humour and the absurdity of the situation being played, we find it difficult to laugh and feel uncomfortable. 

Beneath The Blue Rinse is both thought provoking and deliciously entertaining, with its quick wit, outright howlers and absurdity. Glover has explained that he works organically and tied two strands together. Perhaps the second strand might be tightened as there were moments of awkwardness and silences.

With a cast who perform convincingly, a special mention must be given to Tomlinson whose timing and delivery make this an evening to remember.

To date I have been impressed with the productions that premiere at London's Park Theatre, many of which have transferred for longer runs following their successful performances at this venue. In association with Veritas Theatre/KEPOW! Theatre, Park has shown once again its encouragement for innovative and exciting new writings.

Footnote: Although not shown on press night, there is a complimentary 30 minute comedy that follows this performance, featuring Kevin Tomlinson and Abigail Hood, The Answer.

Beneath The Blue Rinse: 70 minutes: no interval

Venue: Park90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park,N4 3JP 
Dates: 21 May – 15 June 2019
Age Guidance:14+
Accessed Performances: captioned performance Wednesday 12 June 19.45
Performances: Mon – Sat Evenings 7.45pm, Thu & Sat Matinees 3.15pm

Concessions £16.50, Child (Under 16) £13, Park Up Scheme (21 – 28 May) £10, 
buy 10 tickets, get the 11th free.
Booking: / 020 7870 6876

*10% telephone booking fee, capped at £2.50 per ticket.