Life & Culture

Theatre review: Good Grief

This slick rom com is let down by a lack of chemistry


Original Theatre continues to turn a crisis into a drama by filming and streaming their productions. Invariably the results achieved by this innovative company led by Alastair Whatley have such flare they avoid the pitfalls that often goes with plonking plays into laptops.

Unlike a lot of drama adapted for online viewing, this made for streaming piece starring Fleabag’s Sian Clifford (who played Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sister Claire in the phenomenally successful comedy) and Nikesh Patel feels as if it is being watched in the way that was originally intended.

Natalie Abrahami’s production of Lorien Haynes’s new comedy makes a virtue of this emerging form of theatre/film fusion by using black and white snippets of the Covid-secure crew setting up each scene. The show starts in earnest when it shifts to colour and we are among the detritus of what looks like a burnt-out party. It turns out to be the aftermath of a wake. Patel is the deceased’s partner. Clifford is the couple’s friend. It should not attract the — spoiler alert — police to report that the play’s tension is derived from the question at the heart of every romcom: will they or won’t they get together?

That there is any doubt is partly down to the absence of chemistry between the show’s two actors. Even in the most intimate scenes the heat generated is more soup than spark. Perhaps this is also down to the constraints of pandemic production. The action takes place in his and her seperate homes, yet it is all shot in the same white-walled studio. The camera is much less forgiving of prop-less minimalism than is the human eye in a theatre where imagination fills the gaps. On screen you just think, ‘why are there no pictures on the wall?’

The play does a pretty good job in conveying the solitude of those left behind when someone dies, even when they have company. But the humour and humanity of the piece falls short of the work we normally associate with Clifford. And although Hayne’s was inspired to write her play after a friend’s death there is little here about the condition of grief that the audience will not already know intuitively or because they have experienced it themselves, or watched Truly, Madly, Deeply.

Still, Abrahami’s slick production at least punctuates our interminable lockdown by turning 50 minutes of it into an entertaining and, I admit, moving interlude.

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