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Theatre Review: Broth ****

Lorna Irvine reviews an 'optimistic and life-affirming' production.

The ingredients to this heartwarming Broth are more sweet than bitter, liberally salted with impish Scottish humour—it's a delight. Host Donna Rutherford, with her 50s glamour and warm, welcoming disposition, introduces us to real life stories on film screens from senior citizens Liz, David, Bill, Annie and the wonderful Mags. All are agreed that they don't feel their age, yet their bodies betray them. And all share a sense of humour, resilience and spirit.

Soup is the factor that unites us all, says Rutherford impressively cooking several soups at once in real-time in front of the audience, which she later serves. It is shared in times of celebration and commiseration, through illness, dinners, walks and wakes. More than a domestic function, it emotionally nourishes and strengthens families, friends and loved ones.

With K. Yvonne Strain providing British Sign Language behind her and folk music by Inge Thomson, Rutherford, a compassionate and engaging mother figure, weaves together moving stories of philosophical resilience in the face of loss and, far from dwelling on nostalgia, provides testimonies which are wise and vital. She also sings, rather gorgeously, an a cappella version of As Time Goes By.

Broth never once shies away from the downside of ageing: loneliness, illness, losing loved ones, slowing down and a lessening sense of community are discussed in depth. But ultimately it is optimistic and life-affirming, with talk of long-lasting friendships, freedom and not caring so much how other people perceive you. And the sacred spaces that are men's sheds!

The sands of time may be against them, but etched into the eyes and smiles of this inspirational group of people is a glimpse of the young tearaways they undoubtedly once were...and occasionally still are.

Broth is commissioned by the Seannachies Research Network, led by The Institute of Design Innovation at the Glasgow School of Art, and is funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute.Part of creative ageing festival Luminate, it tours across Scotland until 31st October

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