Theatre

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Aberdeen Arts Centre

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Neil Cooper, Four stars

BIRTHDAYS couldn’t come more bittersweet for Robert, the swinging bachelor at the centre of Stephen Sondheim and lyricist George Furth’s Me-Generation dissection of the life and loves of the terminally single male. At the grand old age of 35, Robert is the last man standing among a set of couples, managing to court three different women in-between playing gooseberry at a string of dinner dates where the artifice of domestic bliss is exposed in various ways. Mid-life crisis gives way to peppy epiphany, as Robert realises that just because he got hurt doesn’t mean he can’t still have a ball.

Revived here in appealingly boutique fashion by Aberdeen’s s Castlegate Arts in association with David Adkins, and born of the new freedoms afforded by the 1960s collective loosening of belts, Sondheim and Furth’s series of navel-gazing vignettes more resembles a Neil LaBute compendium than standard Broadway fare.

As the couples orbit around Oliver Savile’s handsomely crumpled Robert in the chic minimalism of his tellingly empty apartment, it’s as if the song and dance they make about it all are bursting out of his ennui-ridden psyche like good and bad angels egging him on to settle down like them.

Delivered with flair and panache, with Lee Crowley’s choreography creates a set of great stage pictures, while an unseen ten-piece band bolster every word. There is a fine solo too from Anita Louise Combe as hard-bitten cynic Joanne on Ladies Who Lunch.

Of course, the very idea these days of being past-it at 35 is ludicrous, and some of the social mores such as the pot-smoking scene are now normalised relics from less enlightened times. Yet, despite the period self-absorption, it’s a knowing portrait of how learning to grow up gracefully doesn’t always work out.