Paul Anderson, review of Not Fade Away by Barrie Keefe (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Tribune, 27 April 1990
Miriam Karlin takes the lead role of Grace Webb in Barrie Keeffe’s latest play at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, Not Fade Away. Grace is an old lady, the widow of a communist who “jacked it in and took up fishing” after the Hungarian revolution.
She escapes from incarceration in the old people’s home in Essex where she has been put by her rich son, and goes back to Forest Gate in East London, her home for 60 years. There she befriends Bonner (Paul Barber), a young black man, after he is beaten up by football supporters outside the pub.
He takes her home and she gets stoned on his grass. Bonner and his sister Marie Louise (Angela Bruce), who is on the game, let her stay to look after Marie Louise’s two daughters – until their place is raided for drugs.
In the sixties, Grace had played the piano in the local pub, and the play is punctuated by some marvellous Cockney renditions of sixties hits. It’s a simple sentimental tale with a simple message – that racism stinks and that we write off the old – but it is well told with considerable wit and energy. Karlin’s performance is superb. She is on stage for almost the whole play, and her presence is absolutely commanding. All in all, a great night out: the Theatre Royal has done it again.