Review: Good Grief

Good Grief confronts the audience with the inevitability of death and is an insightful and entertaining analysis of grief and the vulnerabilities of those involved.

 

Good Grief confronts the audience with the inevitability of death through the eyes of June, a recently widowed middle-aged suburban housewife. Despite the sombre topic it finds humour and sometimes relief enduring through the process of adjusting to the death of a partner. It also reveals that your life partner may not have been the person you perceived, through deception and secrets…

I was puzzled as I collected a program for Good Grief from the bar of the quaint community theatre in Chelmer. It was in the form of a Memorial Service program at St Bride’s Church to “Samuel Herbert Pepper, a Father, Husband, Editor and Friend”. Fortunately, I hadn't gatecrashed a Memorial Service to a much-loved local and instead joined the bustling audience in anticipation. The stage was set as a suburban London middle-class living room with a large picture of the deceased character “Sam” looming over the cast throughout the play.

Despite the sombre tone, the majority of the play was a humorous insight into the foibles of a middle-aged widow, June, who is struggling to adjust to life without her domineering husband Sam. June is played convincingly by Selina Kadell who is a regular member of the Centenary Community Theatre Group. June’s free-flowing vodka accentuated her continuous narrative in the form of an oral diary to the deceased Sam about her new daily struggles. The diary guides the audience through her confused thoughts and insights as she negotiates the path of loneliness and sorrow whilst relishing her newly found independence. However, poor June eventually realises that she has been naive when those surrounding her for comfort in her grief: Pauline, her judgemental adult stepdaughter (Simone-Marie Dixon); an ex-colleague of her husbands; Eric Grant (Paul McGibbon); and a bloke she met in a pub, Duggie (Guy Smith) all abuse her desperate situation to fulfil their own hidden agendas.

June befriends Duggie after seeing him sporting her husband’s loud pink suit, which he purchased from the local charity shop, earning him the nickname “The Suit”. Duggie was portrayed cleverly by Guy Smith, initially seeming to be a gentle and innocuous confidant and casual friend for the vodka addled June in her time of grief. June buys most of the rounds for “The Suit” at a local bar served amiably by the Barman (Liam Castles). As “The Suit” gradually weedles his way into June’s affections and ultimately into her bank account the true motive of his friendship is revealed.

June’s newly independent life continues to unravel in a series of mistakes, all highlighted by a large visual board framing poignant words taken from each scene and representative of the clutter in June’s head. With each scene there are fewer words from each experience as June’s grieving mind seems to clear and be more focused.

Good Grief is an insightful and entertaining analysis of grief and the vulnerabilities of those involved. The production was executed thoughtfully and professionally with some lovely touches such as the Memorial program and the visual thought board.

By Dr Gemma Regan 

 

Good Grief

Directed by Cam Castles

Centenary Theatre Group, Chelmer Community Centre

Playing: 22, 23, 24, 28 and 29 September

 Friday & Saturdays at 7.30pm, Sunday 17th at 6pm, Sunday 24th at 2pm