Old Fools (2019)

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Poster by Bryon Fear

by Tristan Bernays

Directed by Mark Ireson

Performances: Tuesday 16 to Saturday 20 April 2019, Old Fire Station


Pianist Tom meets linguist Viv, and we join them on the rollercoaster ride from youth to old age. This is the story of their love and the life they have shared, from the first spark to the dying light - but not necessarily in that order.

The action of the play takes place here and there, and now and then.




Thank you: David Clements, Dave Hollander, Siobhan Campbell & Peter Stevens; Lily Ann Green Coleman; Bonedaddies; Tilly Boniface; all the volunteers in the SLT bar, box office and front of house teams.


2 actors, 2 chairs, engrossing play and acting of the very highest quality. A memorable evening; don't miss

Eileen Coan

I’ve never felt compelled to write about any of the shows I’ve seen at SLT, but with ‘Old Fools’ still firmly in my mind after last night’s wonderful performance, I feel I must congratulate you again for such an excellent production.

One could be forgiven for cynically thinking that the play is as a mishmash of common relationship scenarios and tropes which dilutes any emotional impact as a result. But in fact, the opposite was true and the play succeeds in becoming more than the sum of its parts.

There’s no doubt that this was assured by the two excellent - and throughly committed - performances from David and Laura. Rarely have I seen an SLT show where the script is so beautifully well-served and fully justified by the cast. Nuanced and wonderfully detailed, they drew me in right from Laura’s toe-tapping beginning to the heart-breaking conclusion, and the sheer emotional rollercoaster that was everything in between. Not only were each of the many scene transitions performed faultlessly (the lighting was also excellent in this regard), but they played each and every scene for all it was worth, effortlessly channelling the emotional requirements of the script with body language often speaking louder than words (of which each and every one could be clearly heard). The way Tom uncomfortably stood, like an ashamed seven-year old, when he begged Viv to take him back whilst Viv stood, so hurt yet unable to cut her ties with him, was truly mesmerising. David’s depiction of his deteriorating condition was perfectly delineated, whilst each and every one of Laura’s various characters were delivered with absolute clarity. The play flowed beautifully and the actors made what they were doing look effortless - a hallmark, in my book, of professional theatre.

Having seen first hand the effects such terminal conditions depicted in the play can have on all areas of a couple’s long-term relationship, the play - and the actors performances of it - totally succeeded in making it clear just how harrowing this is. The fact that this is done via the use of non-linear snapshots into various stages of their lives but still manages to pack such an emotional wallop as a result of two wonderfully dynamic performances is testament to the success of your production.

Well done Mark, five stars from me!

Of course, the only real problem was the operator… ;)

Steve Anstee

Old Fools is a compelling love story, which defies chronology but never loses its audience as it takes us on a journey through the ups and downs of Tom and Viv’s relationship, often laugh-out-loud funny, and at times quite devastating. Just two actors, David Hepburn and Laura Essex – both new to SLT - handle the fast moving plot and snappy dialogue with style. The many sudden, yet seamless scene changes are executed flawlessly, mimicking the way memory takes us all from one moment of our lives to another, nudged along by a single word or phrase.

David plays the flirty, witty Tom, with a cheeky-chappy charm as he navigates the various ages and stages of Tom’s life. Laura is delightful in her portrayal of Viv and convinces as the numerous other characters who appear in their lives. The two of them together are enchanting to watch and the audience will be rooting for them right until the heart-breaking end.

As ever the theatre space is used to best effect, this time a stark and empty set – just two chairs – in a white square within a theatre-in-the-round arrangement. Every seat in the house has the perfect view and, as in life, we all see something slightly different. Clever lighting helps the story along by underscoring the changes in time and tempo.

Don’t miss this beautifully crafted, captivating contribution to SLT’s excellent season.'

Elena Markham

Old Fools is a superb piece of theatre. Sharp script, cleverly staged and two really stunning performances. It deserves sell-out crowds for the rest of the week, so don't miss the opportunity to see what will absolutely be one of the best shows SLT does this year. Huge congratulations to Mark Ireson, Jo Boniface, Laura Essex & David Hepburn. It's definitely not shit…..

Ben Rathe

I was blown away by tonight’s performance of Old Fools. Seamless, emotional, extremely well acted and directed. I even had a lump in my throat at the end...... not like me at all. So very well done to all.

Kay George

An excellent production. Brilliant performances. There is so much I could say about this play but I shall resist as I want you to go and see for yourselves. If I get a chance I am going to see this again.

Barry Heselden

Why is theatre better than film? Because all you need to make theatre work is two chairs, a cracking script, and players who make the space sing. This show has all that, and then some. Thank you for such a very good show Laura and David, and Mark, and the crew.

Simple, true, funny, immaculately played, and only on for three more nights. Go. Really, it’s a choice between this and “Three Sisters” at the Almeida, and that will still be running next week.

Chris Lilly

I absolutely loved “Old Fools” last night. Such a fabulous show and impressive cast, well done Mark Ireson and Jo Boniface. Everyone please see this show!'

Katie Floyd

Absolutely cracking show. Extremely tight direction, fabulous performances, very moving script. Brilliant!

Christine Theophilus

Old Fools is superb. What a script!

Tristan Bernays takes the memories of a really likeable and charming couple and kneads them like dough, each one folding in on the next as each moment seamless presses into another. It’s a narrative trope we have seen in many plays before but Bernays writing is masterfully subtle and engaging and never feels forced. The story folds and unfolds and folds again taking us on a journey of an entire relationship pulling its characters back and forth through time until a satisfying conclusion.

The cast are just great. Congratulations to David Hepburn and Laura Essex who traverse the content with real skill, shifting between time and emotional states almost effortlessly - I do hope they become SLT regulars. It’s staged beautifully too. Kudos to Mark Ireson and Jo Boniface and Graham Clements for delivering a cracking show.

If the ticket sales were as good as the production, there’d be a queue round the block for returns. See it if you can.

Bryon Fear

Old Fools - more wonderful than I thought it could be. A master class in finding that space between the words; natural, engaging, perfectly pitched. Oh goodness I really loved this performance from 2 outstanding actors. My kids came too and like me are buzzing. Thank you!

Kay Anderson

David Hepburn and Laura Essex give stunning performances. I cared about the characters deeply, and found this very very moving.

Audrey Lindsay

I'm an official member of the "Old Fools" fan club. Beautifully done team. Anyone who gets to end with dry eyes has no soul! Go on, book and see for yourself. Only 2 nights left. Don't miss this one

Charlotte Benstead


The Way You Look Tonight

The song, written by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern, plays a central part in the play. First performed by Fred Astaire in the 1936 film Swing Time, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and has since become a jazz standard - in recent years it seems that every wannabe smooth jazz singer includes their version in their first album.

The cover versions website Secondhand Songs currently shows 486 different recordings, with links to YouTube videos of more than 120. While preparing for the show I listened to at least a few seconds of each, trying to find the right versions for the play in and play out music. We eventually decided that the audience would walk in to Mal Waldron's sextet (including John Coltrane) from 1957, the sort of music you might hear in the club where Tom and Viv meet. Close contenders were instrumental versions by Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins (1956), the Blue Mitchell Sextet (1959), Coleman Hawkins And His All Stars (1947) and Oscar Peterson (1954). For the walk out music, Tony Bennett's 1958 recording beat everything else hands down.

Follow the links, listen and enjoy!

Meeting the author

Tristan Bernays came to see the last night of the run

See Also

Have there been other SLT productions of this play? Link to them here.

Or add anything that is related within this site. The author's page for instance or other plays with a similar theme.


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