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Review: Good Grief – Yvonne Arnaud

Penelope Keith ‘just fantastic’

By The Stage Dragon

Penelope Keith is just fantastic in this touching, bitter sweet comedy!

The opening of Good Grief sees her character June returning from her husband’s funeral. As a newly bereaved widow we are taken on a journey of hope and courage as we watch her relationship with both ‘The Suit’ (Christopher Ravenscroft) and her intrusive step-daughter Pauline (Flora Montgomery) progress in life after her husband.

Penelope Keith as June – ‘engaging and endearing’

The audience are very much a part of the show from the beginning, with cleverly written dialogue to ensure they are given just the right amount of back-story, initially in order to catch up with the characters, but also to quickly understand what is being presented to them. With this in mind, June delivers most of her speech to the audience, meaning the play is largely a monologue with small pieces of dialogue from supporting characters throughout.

Tom Littler’s direction is incredibly effective; presenting monologue speech to an audience for such great lengths of time can be very tricky to get right. Littler has utilised the space well, with clever use of levels provided by a wonderful set from Simon Kenny. Penelope Keith is never left static for too long.

The setting for the play is in June’s “much modernised Edwardian house” and a nearby pub. With a sliding set, the scene changes are smooth and transitions are accompanied by 90’s pop songs. The brilliant design allows actors to be in one scene and instantly be transported to the next without having to move pieces themselves. It also allows over-lapping scenes to occur, in which the main focus is in the house but we are able to see the other cast milling around in the pub, which was highly effective.

As June, Penelope Keith is engaging and endearing, but also on show is her well known comic timing and a lovely blunt, sarcastic edge to her delivery. We are allowed to laugh with her but equally feel her pain when her grief becomes more real towards the end of the play as certain facts come to light. As ‘The Suit’, Ravenscroft is vocally charming. This combines with his chirpiness and underlying off tones to show his character further developed by subtle mannerisms.

Christopher Ravenscroft as ‘The Suit‘ is vocally charming

Flora Montgomery as Pauline, portrays wonderful varying relationships with the rest of the cast. She shines particularly in a scene where she is reading letters she wrote to her father when she was a young girl. Jonathan Firth as Eric is slimy, smarmy and everything one expects of a high flying newspaper exec.

Overall, this production of Good Grief by Keith Waterhouse is simply wonderful. Theatre fans should do their best to see it on its short run here which ends on 3rd November. Book now before it is too late.

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