Roundelay, Southwark Playhouse – Review


But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs, and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year…

Photo: © John Haynes

Roundelay or La Ronde as it is sometimes called is a perennial favourite on the stage, with its emphasis on the frankness of the classes before and after the sexual act. Written by Sonja Linden and directed by Anna Ledwich, Roundelay, which is currently running at Southwark Playhouse, is novel in its presentation and focus. In a world where sex is talked about ad nauseum, Roundelay looks at the one taboo that still exists today – the ‘inconceivable’ notion that older people are interested in- and have healthy sex lives.

Taking the circular nature of these people’s lives as a physical metaphor, Roundelay is set in a circus, with its vignettes compered by ‘ringmistress’ Clare Perkins and aerial silk work from performer Anna Simpson. As for the characters who all bar two are aged between 50 and 80+, the vitality of their lives are far from over – if anything they are like a fine wine or spirit that’s reach maturity after decades, something to savour.

For some, this is the time when they finally ‘come out’ and are totally honest with themselves. For others dementia has an intermitent presence, giving extra poignancy to memories and acts of love. The one scene that undeniably has the power to move is between Evelyn (Annie Fairbank) and Daniel (Elan James). Admitting what she missed most was the close proximity of another, younger body against hers, the simple act of hand on bare skin has more meaning and significance than what can be expressed.

If Roundelay says anything, it’s that when it comes to the physical expression of love among older people, there are no real rules – only those imposed from within and the vague expectations of society. Ask the likes of Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones if life ends at 50.

© Michael Davis 2017

Roundelay runs at Southwark Playhouse until 18th March 2017.

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