Janie Gray and Monisha Gohil in Jo Tilley’s Old

Old. By Jo Tilley.

“Hello I’m Jo Tilley, I’m 34, I’m single and I’m looking for a man.” The creator and director of the sitcom Old screened at the Axbridge Roxy Cinema on Thursday August 23rd 2018 introduced the premier with a bit of her stand-up comedy. She had a good line in being single and being thirty-something and she had a good line in period films. Films that is, with the periods women are familiar with. Why is it she asked did period films never mention periods? Couldn’t it have been Pride and Period Juice or A Womb with a View?

A packed Roxy lapped it up. With three or four free screenings in one evening residents had a chance to see a pilot sitcom filmed in the town utilizing some of the residents in the cast. Jo is a freelance writer, sometime stand-up and now a prospective TV sitcom writer and director from London although her dad Andrew lives in the town and is a regular at the Lamb Inn.

Old. A sitcom. TV pilot. Review.

They may be old and they may be decrepit but the residents of Bailey’s Retirement Home in Jo Tilley’s Old behave like a bunch of bored boarding school children. One suspects their consumption of gin is only matched by their intake of drugs as they behave like teenagers on speed. The main protagonist Jenny (Janie Gray) enjoys winding everyone up while nerdy Finn (Robin Edwards) is up to no good on his computer and Fred (Peter Straker) has a tantrum over his boiled eggs and suspects a cat of having a paw in murder. They are an eccentric lot with time on their hands and with today’s high-tech gadgets they create good natured chaos in their genteel surroundings.

Fred (Peter Straker) has a tantrum over his boiled eggs

Trying to keep them in order is the manager Miss Bailey (Diane Lukins) and mopping up their spilled liquids and unwanted mess is their care worker Joy (Monisha Gohil) who unwisely admits to the oldies a personal secret. Joy’s request for anonymity is ignored by the badly behaved residents whose actions drive what plot there is. Overlooking all of this is the all seeing eye of Gus the home’s ginger cat. If there is a nomination for best cat at the BAFTA awards then Gus played by Tango, a feline from the town, would be in the purring if not the running.

Old opens with a view of the retirement home (filmed at The Parsonage Bed and Breakfast establishment in Axbridge), looking a bit like a Somerset version of Fawlty Towers. There are glimpses of Cheddar Reservoir in some of the scenes but in general the film is shot in the gardens and interior of the fine old house.

The sitcom is also shot outside in the grounds

As the hormonally charged Jenny, Janie Gray made the most of her lines with her wonderful voice a blend of Plymouth Gin, English Oak and Virginia Tobacco, while Peter Straker as Fred gave strong support with his senior moments and outbursts. Stand out performances came from a spirited Monisha Gohil as Joy who had to combine naivety and confusion in a tabard of anxiety, while her mother played by an excellent Norma Dixit who was plausibly comic in her effort to sort out her daughter. Also in the cast was Andrew Cunningham who played the young at heart Bob while Sara Parsons was the prospective resident Shelly who was nonplused by the antics of the occupants of the home. The slightly unhinged Miss Bailey, the manager of the home, was played by an in form Diane Lukins who gave her a frenzied personality and a manic Cruella De Vil type laughter as she attempted to show new residents around the place replacing the ones that had died off.

The manager shows a potential resident around the home

As a pilot the sitcom was an introduction to potential TV viewers to the characters and the ribald script penned by Tilley. Although similar in content to the 1990s BBC sitcom Waiting For God the comedy Old has moved on to an earthier place – although it shares some of the BBC series’ themes. The audience at the premier certainly laughed in all the right places. It was Tilley’s screen play which also added to the humour, with cut-aways, the use of Gus the ginger cat as well as using the house and gardens to provide context – all edited with precision by Kevin Chu Thomson. Old is a highly enjoyable and an accomplished sitcom with strong performances and first class production values and deserves a wider audience.

Harry Mottram

You can follow Jo Tilley on BlogSpot, LinkedIn and on Twitter: @JoannaTilley

There is a trailer for Old on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKcz5o697t4

And the full video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozf9Kf2oFJI&feature=youtu.be&a=

The Roxy Cinema in Axbridge has published its programme for the autumn. See http://www.axbridgeroxy.org.uk/whats-on/

For more from Harry visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Follow Harry on Twitter @HarryTheSpiv and Facebook for more stories and features