Out with the new and in with the old
It's out with the new and in with the old in Susie Kennedy’s “As Time Goes By.” Old style songs sung the old-fashioned way meld with spoken word in a production that attempts to explore the joys, trials and tribulations of being an older woman. Featuring renditions and re-imaginings of classic songs, along with several comic routines, “As Time Goes By” is steeped in a sort of music hall, innocent raciness. If it doesn’t all work, and falls short in comparison to the works of its idol, Sophie Tucker, “As Time Goes By” still oozes a captivating charm and offers something of a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy their nostalgia.
“As Time Goes By” is at its best when it tackles its subject matter head on, as its anti-ageing cream, divine older ladies or silver vixen routines make clear. Here Kennedy shines, with delightful renditions of songs such as “nobody loves a fat girl, but oh how a fat girl can love” and “older ladies are divine.” All of which is brought beautifully home by pianist Carole Nelson offering musical accompaniment and a delectable chemistry between herself and Kennedy. Kennedy also shows some excellent comic timing and inventiveness, especially during a wonderful re-imagining of a Shakespearean soliloquy to address the plight of the silver haired vixen. To dye or not to dye, that is the question. Steeped in charm, “As Time Goes By” rarely talks turkey, but when it does, as in its penultimate scene on the plight of an 84-year-old woman organising a date online, it’s not just funny, it’s genuinely moving and thought provoking. Yet, at times, “As Time Goes By” struggles to realise its own stated outcomes. With many of its themes, such as feeling overweight, infidelity and the price of yoga mats, being vague generalities relevant to many woman, and not just the so-called older ones, it often drifts away from where it succeeds best.
Throughout, “As Time Goes By” is haunted by the ghost of the irrepressible Sophie Tucker, the self-proclaimed, "last of the red-hot Mamma’s." Indeed, “As Time Goes By” unquestionably tries to emulate Tucker, but here it doesn’t quite deliver. More Victoria Wood-light than Tucker, “As Time Goes By” doesn’t exude any of Tucker’s raw, raunchy ragtime energy, a woman whose gags and songs once shocked a more innocent time. Rather, “As Time Goes By” is pretty shock resistant, steeped in politically correct political incorrectness, delivered in the shape of subtle and safe innuendos. If Bette Midler reinvented Tucker for the late twentieth century into something both raunchy and relevant, Kennedy goes in the opposite direction. Talking about the joys of sex for the older woman almost goes there, as does the Tucker-like celebration of being fat. But Kennedy never quite pulls it off as the irreverent, hard-drinking, sexual prowler, looking too much like the do-good, girl next door trying to talk bold. Yet that’s not always a bad thing, for the likeable and softer spoken Kennedy oozes a captivating charm and charisma which director Bairbre Ní Chaoimh cleverly exploits to the full. Set design by Ciara Murnane combines torch song cabaret with a parlour-like atmosphere, crafting a wonderfully welcoming arrangement.
If “As Time Goes By” deviates too often from its rich exploration into vague generalities, and if it doesn’t quite have the rawness of a Sophie Tucker, it more than compensates with an endearing performance by Kennedy. “As Time Goes By” is not for everyone, yet for people of a certain age or disposition it is unquestionably adorable. As is Susie Kennedy. For even if memory goes, Susie always remains adorable.
“As Time Goes By” by Susie Kennedy, runs at The Viking Theatre until January 14th
For further information, visit The Viking Theatre