The Dannevirke Theatre Company's latest play, Who Wants to be 100? (Anyone Who's 99), is a gritty one which brings the audience face-to-face with some of the realities of old age.

The Roger Hall play, directed by Sue Farrell, had the opening night audience laughing, but it's definitely not a comedy, rather a production which deals with the issues of old age, failing health, life in a resthome and even of elder abuse.

However, the Dannevirke production is lifted from the grim reality by an outstanding cast and a smooth delivery.

The show comes with a warning that the language may offend - it's on the edge - and that the nudity most certainly will offend. But for those at the opening night, the general feeling was this "was just reality".

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The show makes you laugh, makes you think, makes you sad and makes you cry, thanks to a cast truly suited to their roles. It's confronting and likely to be a talking point for those who go.

But it's not for everyone.

Who Wants to be 100? focuses on the lives of four men in Regina Resthome, their families and carers.

Gerard McKay, as Leo Maddox, an ex-All Black, was "brilliant," audience members said. A last-minute replacement for the role, McKay has made it his own, right down to the physical peculiarities and his sometimes petulant child-like behaviour. It is worth going just to see him in action.

But the director has cast others in roles which suit them so well. Kim Phelps, as lawyer Edwin Davis, is wonderful, as are Boz Charlton as Alan Webster and David Broadley as Professor Charles Benson.

And activity co-ordinator Gloria, played by Esther Cable, is a scene-stealer. We can only hope when we roll up to a resthome there's someone like her there waiting to keep us amused and entertained.

The lounge at Regina is the last bastion of male defiance - a place where the four men feel they have the right to respect and dignity. But it's also the place of the belligerent, battered and bewildered for whom a funeral is a "good little outing" which breaks up their day and life is measured in terms of meal times. Not everyone will be comfortable with the issues this production dishes up and the language is at times close to the bone. Comments have been made that this show isn't suited to community theatre, but is instead is a production which should be staged in fringe theatre.

However, it deals with issues so many of us will have to deal with. I can only hope if I find myself in a rest home that there's a manager like Elaine, played by Julie Davis - caring, kind and with a sense of humour.

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-Who Wants to be 100? (Anyone Who's 99), continues this week at Dannevirke's Fountain Theatre, with tickets available at PaperPlus. The show closes on Saturday, August 1.