Fringe Theatre

The Lounge

Summerhall, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

THE moments when you laugh, and the moments when the laughter ebbs away, may well depend on what age you are now – and whether you have relatives living in a care home. London theatre group Inspector Sands have always had the knack of being able to hit an audience’s funny bone, and then touch on a sore spot that we think we’ve covered up: embarrassment is a strong suit with them, so is the sharp nudge to a slumbering social conscience. The Lounge – performed by Lucinka Eisler, Giulia Innocenti and Ben Lewis and written by them in collaboration with director Lu Kemp – is typically well-observed, shrewdly ridiculous but with an undertow of Awful Warnings: getting old, infirm and unable to look after yourself is no joke if you have to rely on those for whom caring is a lucrative business.

Marsha (Lucinka Eisler) was, at 97, maintaining her cherished independence. Living happily alone, eating when, and what, she wanted, watching television only when something intellectually stimulating was on. A fall ended all that. Now Marsha is coo-ed at, and chivvied, by care assistants who don’t bother with proper names, but “darling” everyone. There are droll episodes where Marsha clashes with other residents, droll – but then less amusing – encounters between the visiting Mark and the care home manageress who is more interested in giving him the hard sell – even though he’s only 39 – than in discovering where his missing grandfather is. It ultimately explodes into surreal farce, when Marsha herself implodes. She checks out, permanently, but in a quick scene change it’s business as usual. However, watching all three performers morph, superbly, into codger-dom before us does rather whisper “is it later than you think, Fringe-goer?”

Run ends Saturday