Good Things by Liz Lochhead is a comedy set in a Glasgow charity shop, full of colourful characters, crossed wires, ups, downs and a pair of soiled combinations.
It has all the perfect ingredients, but somehow parts of this play don’t quite gel for me, which is a shame because at times it is very funny. The core of the problem is the lack of sympathy felt towards the main character Susan. I couldn’t quite decide if it was in the writing or in the delivery of this role where the problem lay, but I suspect both have a role to play in my unsettled feelings. It pains me to say this as Carol Ann Crawford, who plays volunteer shop assistant Susan, is a superb character actress from what I’ve seen of her other work this year at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, but there was a generalness to this role than prevented me fully warming to her. It was only in the last scene where the penny dropped and some emotion was stirred. The down-trodden, separated, under-valued Susan was finally seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Dougal Lee as widower David plays his role sensitively and has some lovely moments with both Susan and Frazer, played by Alan Steele. Both Crawford and Lee play their respective roles, but all the other roles in the play are played by Steele and Isabelle Joss (as shop manager Marjorie). Steele and Joss effortlessly play a multitude of characters ranging from down-and-outs, husbands, girlfriends, shoppers and even police officers.
For me, the star of the show without question is Isabelle Joss. Here is a young actress to look out for in the future. Comic timing and characterization perfected, Joss is a true joy to watch and brought a smile to my face with her every entrance.
Director Ken Alexander keeps the pace flowing, although at times it seems a bit static. Again another question mark over writing versus delivery. Superb design and set dressing by Karen Tennant. The authenticity is so convincing, one would actually think a charity shop had been transported onto the Pitlochry stage. Also, effective lighting design by Wayne Dowdeswell, particularly the scene change into Valentine’s Day, combined with some effective scenic touches.
An enjoyable evening’s entertainment showcasing quick changes galore, the ups and downs of everyday life and the good old Glasgow banter!
- David Somerville