Thursday, January 28, 2010

Really Old, Like Forty Five by Tamsin Oglesby, Cottesloe Theatre, 27-Jan-2010 – Directed by Anna Mackmin

It appears that Tamsin Oglesby doesn't know the difference between Giant Tortoises (long-lived, land-living, slow moving with domed hard shells) and Giant Turtles (sea-living, flippered, with leathery hydro-dynamic shells which allow them to glide gracefully through pelagic oceans). The third scene of this play is all about Darwin and how his discoveries were inspired in part by his encounters with the giant 'turtles' (in reality giant tortoises) of the Galapagos Islands. On display under a big picture of Darwin is a stuffed turtle (a turtle not a tortoise), it is supposed to be alive and so old that Darwin met it (sea turtles unlike tortoises are not known for their longevity). Darwin probably did encounter sea turtles of his voyage as there's a lot of good eating on a turtle and it would have been a bit of a treat when the sailors caught one but on the Galapagos Islands he met Giant Tortoises.
Okay, I realise I'm being overly pedantic here, I also know that Americans indiscriminately call almost any shelled reptile a turtle and it might even have been a deliberate comment on Alzheimers but for some reason it really annoyed me. Most of all, it spoiled my enjoyment of what I normally would have thought was, if I could get past the turtles (and clearly I can't), a good play. When it's not misrepresenting chelonians and testudae, this play is witty, erudite and at times touching in its portrayal of a dystopian overcrowded near-future where something has to be done about all the old people. It has a meaty twisted civil servant part for Paul Ritter to shine in, it has excellent performances from Judy Parfitt and Marcia Warren as a pair of sisters facing their old-age in mental or physical sickness and there is even a nicely thought out (and performed) comedy robot. I thought the future was well imagined with some nice subtle touches, like referring to Britain as a developing nation. There was also good future-thought in the discussion of planning for speed lanes on pavements and the way that old people had to earn their place in society by adopting “grandchildren” or submitting themselves for drug trials.
But the last word is “Turtles”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I'm an American with a tendency to confuse turtles with tortoises (I think due to the fact there are turtles that aren't seagoing, perhaps), so this play sounds right up my non-discrimanatory alley. ;-)

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