16 October 2011

An ageing romcom

It’s a story that is raising chatter about the ageing boomers: love, sex, relationships and affairs in the twilight years. Lawrie & Shirley: a poem, a move, a play is Geoff Page’s take on this thorny topic as a romantic comedy. Geoff wrote it as a verse novel (originally subtitled a move in verse) with parallel filmic visual imagery and lines that sit with gentle poetic rhythm and easy rhymes. Lines and easy rhymes. I didn’t count the accents, but it was unobtrusive and easy to listen to as a lengthy monologue.

This is the story of Lawrie and Shirley. Lawrie is 81 and a lifelong ladies’ man; Shirley is 70 and intends to change his ways. He likes high baroque; she likes Mantovani. They embark on a loving relationship late in life, fresh and young despite their years, with a final dreamt-of tour of the sights of Europe. But it’s not an easy path. Their kids, obviously not shared, agree on one thing: they don’t want this and they do want the inheritance. They make a tacky trio: Lawrie’s son Bennie, lifelong drinker, and Shirley’s two daughters, Sarah and Jane, both wealthy and greedy. Jane is taken for the ride; Bennie is crude but weak; Sarah is the particularly unpleasant one. Perhaps unexpectedly, Sarah’s grammar-educated teenage boys are intrigued and positive. It all has to come to an end, and it does with Lawrie’s heart attack and subsequent accident that kills him and leaves Shirley the survivor. The final comeuppance is Lawrie’s will, read to an unhappy family. It’s generous to Sarah’s understanding children and surprisingly to Bennie’s drinking habit and to the much loved Shirley, of course.

It’s a difficult theme for many people and thus a test. It’s also one we may face as children or as ourselves soon enough. Geoff presents it with humour and honesty and empathy and we enjoy the happy ride and despair of the self-seeking children. We forget the monologue and the rhythmic couplets, whatever however the meter is parsed. It’s a lovely story and it’s presented with joy and understanding and some mischief by Chrissie Shaw with the accompaniment of the solo violin / viola of Ewan Foster. And it’s another play set in our local Canberra. Thanks Geoff.

Geoff Page (author) wrote the verse novel, Lawrie & Shirley. Chrissie Shaw (actor) performed it as a monologue with accompaniment by Ewan Foster (violin, viola) at Street Theatre 2.

Poet Stephen Edgar launches Geoff Page's Lawrie & Shirley

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