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Good Grief (tour - Guildford, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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There are scores of plays that deal with death itself; the bloodied solider on the battle field, teenage suicides and even the odd poisoned chalice. But in Good Greif Keith Waterhouse deals with the aftermath of death through the eyes of a widow in suburban London in 1990 – and she deals with grief in a world of domestic appliances, stroppy stepdaughters and chance encounters. After June donates her late husband’s suits to the local Oxfam a strange twist of fate means that she becomes friends with the man who buys it.

Simon Kenny’s design creates a sense of emptiness through the house’s high ceilings and separate levels, while his cleverly concealed pub set provides the intimacy and warmth June finds comfort in. Tim Mascall’s lighting adds to this effect as his cold early morning lighting harshly exposes June’s fragile state of mind. Pop hits from the 90s play during the scene changes which attempt to create a time setting, but because the set moves so seamlessly it ultimately becomes distracting and redundant.

Penelope Keith is inspiring in her role as the recently widowed June. There are no clichés here as she accurately portrays a strong woman deeply affected by her husband’s death. With quick comic timing, sharp wit, as well as a powerful vulnerability, she is dynamic and exciting to watch.

As “The Suit” Christopher Ravenscroft is sweet and unassuming with lovely flourishes of beaten down gestures, while Flora Montgomery and Jonathan Firth inhabit the “me me me” spirit of the 90s in their roles as June’s stepdaughter Pauline and Eric, a work colleague of June’s late husband.

Extras are played by other members of the company which feels a little awkward as they rhubarb their way through scenes; with a leading lady this strong you don’t background actors. However Tom Littler has his actors wholly inhabit this domestic space and Keith treads the carpet as if it really was her that picked it out from Homebase and has vacuumed it ever since.

The quick asides, snappy dialogue and interesting development of Keith’s character make this a very enjoyable show but it just misses the mark on being amazing.


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