On Golden Pond, Ilkley Playhouse

SIMULTANEOUSLY endearing and infuriating is the business of the older generations not quite understanding technology.

In Gordon Williamson’s atmospheric and entirely authentic set, we are in a lakeside cabin in America, belonging to Norman and Ethel.

Checking that everything still works after the winter, we meet the main protagonist (or antagonist), Norman who is coming to terms with that most dreadful thing - ageing.

Norman and Ethel have spent 48 summers together in this cabin and one can only assume that each year has followed a similar pattern.

Ethel is endlessly optimistic: she has to be because Norman is the opposite.

His conversations nearly always seem to end with him anticipating or predicting his own death.

Ethel is looking for good and she is practical and compassionate in a way that her husband has failed to be.

You can only smile wryly as Norman sits down and suggests a game of Monopoly half way through the unpacking.

Damien O’Keeffe and Jan Thomas play Norman and Ethel beautifully.

There is real depth to these performances – one can sense the complexity of their long relationship and the way in which they have tolerated or celebrated each other’s idiosyncrasies.

These are flawed people and many of their problems seem to be related to their complicated love for their only child, Chelsea.

Chelsea (Yvette Huddlestone) arrives at the cabin with a surprise – a good one, in the form of a teenage boy.

So much seems to have been expected of Chelsea and her perception is that she hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Yvette embodies Chelsea’s hurt so that it’s palpable as some bitter words are exchanged.

Conversations between her and her parents are genuinely painful to watch.

And it is her boyfriend’s son Billy Ray Jr (Gus Lovell) who brings to the family some common ground. Billy Ray Jr is at once the slightly brattish teenager and the apple of their eyes.

Gus Lovell works hard to ensure that his portrayal is far more likeable than it could be – this is a young man in whose company an older generation will thrive.

This is a play which explores all kinds of love.

Bruce Sturrock is brilliant as chuckling Charlie, a one-time friend and the possessor of unrequited love – just an hour in his company would drive you up the wall, and yet somehow you would welcome him anew the following day.

Dick Hebbert’s sensitive direction of this well-observed piece ensures that the characters appear fully formed.

We know their needs and wants intimately and relate to them so that any one of them can induce a tear, a smile or a moment of reflection.

Even at the end, a simple phone call between the characters produces a genuinely touching moment: the tender embrace between Billy Ray Sr (Wander Bruijel) and Chelsea gives hope with such a clear display of affection.

This play is nostalgic, sentimental and describes the often challenging nature of familial love.

Wonderful stuff that the people who have had the good sense to go and see will talk about for years.

- Becky Carter