Death is a fact of life, but when it happens we psychologically run for the hills. Locking these feelings away is, for many, the best way of dealing with bereavement. In contrast, Good Grief offers a portrayal of characters who honestly face the realisation that life does indeed go on.
The story begins with the wake after the wake. Empty pizza boxes surround Adam (Nikesh Patel) and Cat (Sian Clifford). Adam’s partner Liv has died after a long battle against cancer. Cat was Liv’s best friend, and happily takes on the buddy role to help Adam through the grieving process. However, it opens the emotional floodgates just as much for her as she is, in her own way, grieving for the loss of her friend. As the post funeral months flip past they both hit the reset button on their lives. Cat nags and cajoles Adam back to a meaningful existence, but emotional baggage is inevitably weighing them down. Unfinished business looms large as they confront their relationship with Liv and each other.
Good Grief is an outstanding piece of theatre that succeeds where many plays fail. The depiction of grief is a brave move that rarely comes off, but writer Lorien Haynes gets the job done with consummate ease, even weaving moments of comedy into the painful and occasional absurd situation. Neither too morbid nor too flippant, here the balance is maintained by two natural and very believable characters. This is in no small part due to Patel and Clifford, both fine actors who deliver wonderfully controlled performances. Perceptive writing and sound acting is a winning combination, rarely found in equal measure.
The underlying message is that we should not mourn for the dead but care for the living. Those we have lost are at peace; it is the people left behind that need our attention. The only bone of contention for me is how we might categorise this work: is it a TV drama, or a stage play filmed for the small screen? The opening and closing titles, shot in black and white, provide a slick cinematic feel. However, the stripped back, single set does remind us where its origins lie. Either way, this is storytelling at its very best and proof that good grief does exist.
Written & created by: Lorien Haynes
Directed by: Natalie Abrahami
Produced by: Amy Gardner (Finite Films), Gala Gordon & Isabella MacPherson (Platform Presents).
Good Grief is avaiable to watch until 15 April via Original Theatre‘s website, link below. Tickets are £15 or £10 concessions. A 20% match donation will be made to the NHS and Macmillan Cancer Care on all ticket income.