Pros: Deeply powerful and deeply personal storytelling which isn’t afraid to tackle the nature of grief head on.
Cons: Some people may find the very personal nature of the drama an alienating experience.
The premise to So It Goes seems unpromising. A sixty minute show about a woman coming to terms with the loss of her father. There are a great number of shows that are taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with similar sounding descriptions, rather less come back down again with glowing reviews and a full touring schedule.
So It Goes manages to achieve something that is quite rare in British theatre. It engages genuinely with the nature of grief, the paralytic hold that it can have over us, and the way it warps our memories of those we loved and those that are left behind.
We are often not comfortable talking about death so seeing people on stage talk openly about their feelings can seem a little artificial, and the emotion false. Whilst we recognise that theatre is not a complete reflection of reality it still can be hard to reconcile stage reactions to death with the numbness that is felt when you hear a loved one is dead.
Hannah Moss has utilised a high-risk strategy to tell the story. Rather than use words, the whole play is described through the use of tablet whiteboards to write out dialogue. Even writing it down sounds cloyingly pretentious but as soon as Hannah simply writes “I’m not speaking, it’s easier” the purpose of it becomes clear.
The whiteboard functions as a cathartic device for Hannah to tell her honest, emotionally devastating story night after night. It also works to provide an element of universalism to an otherwise potentially parochial story.
By stripping away spoken word we are left with a series of mimes and tableaus. Gesture becomes more important than language. Humans must show their emotions, they cannot use words as a shield to hide behind. We live Hannah’s life through the simple sentences scrawled onto a whiteboard and in the pictures she creates with her collaborator, Daniel Ralfe.
Both are superb performers and are so comfortable in their performance it comes as little surprise to find they are both Lecoq-trained. They are loose, malleable and, in a remarkable scene set in Topshop with the teenage Hannah, capable of taking an audience through an entire conversation using a few props and eye contact alone.
The comedy is well-balanced against the inevitable tragedy, and if anything serves to increase the poignancy. The light provides an important contrast to the dark, and allows us to see her father as a fully rounded human and not an idol to be worshipped on a pedestal.
The accumulation of honesty in Hannah’s storytelling gives So It Goes a huge dramatic weight. It is raw and open, and one would need a heart of stone not to be moved. We should not be ashamed of grief and we must learn to embrace it. Everyone has, or will, go through a similar event at some point in their lives. We may not want to face it but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. If there was a stifled sob from this audience member then it was by no means the only one.
So It Goes does everything that it sets out to do. The technical skill underpinning the project – from the actors to the sound design and prop makers – was remarkable and the emotional honesty even more so. It is a genuine and honest conversation about what it means to lose someone, and there is little to fault in a production that only takes up 60 minutes of your time.
Created and Performed by: Hannah Moss & David Ralfe
Producer: On The Run
Presented By: Show and Tell
Booking Until: 18 April 2015 (and then touring)
Box Office: 020 77396176
Booking Link: http://shoreditchtownhall.com/theatre-performance/whats-on/event/so-it-goes