Friday, 12 October 2012

Good Grief by Keith Waterhouse: Richmond Theatre

10th October 2012

Having been to the Richmond Theatre a few times, I went on my own.  I am on their mailing and access lists and a handy review of their autumn season suggested a few plays  of interest.  It was a sunny day on the Wednesday so I headed for Richmond on the London Overground and tapped my way to the Richmond Theatre, by Richmond Green. 

Good Grief by Keith Waterhouse was playing starring Penelope Keith and I bought a ticket in the front row of the stalls (neck stretchers for the sighted), an ideal spot for listening and occasional glimpse of the actors.  The front-of-house staff were very attentive, and I was shown the accessible facilities and then taken to my seat.  During the interval, the ticket desk wrote down the names of the actors.

There are only four speaking roles, that of June a recently widowed person coping with bereavement.  Her stepdaughter Pauline, a man (Douglas) who bought her late husband’s checked suit from an Oxfam shop and her husband’s colleague, Eric, who did not get the plum job at the newspaper. 

Memorial Service music plays in the background and as the lights dim and Parry’s “I was glad” strikes up (why?), the play starts.  June (Penelope Keith) has a one way conversation with Sam her dead husband while continuing to have dialogue with the other 3 characters.  

There are frequent scene changes which are cued with lighting, music and appropriate noises.  The scenes are mainly in June’s house and in the pub, where she orders pale ale.  Themes such as betrayal, self deception and adjusting to widowhood are littered with some comic scenes. 

I got lost at the end of the first act and asked my neighbour what happened.  I think that was the only occasion and if you go - it was Pauline who rang the bell and Douglas was on the stairs as the curtain came down. 

Those who like Penelope Keith in classy Surbiton roles may be disappointed as Ms Keith plays Northern English, the others being Home Counties.  It is funny though a bit clunky at times and I am not sure that all the monologue/dialogues were timed to perfection.  My neighbour described the end of the first half as a denouement or cliff hanger.  I am not sure but thought the meta-theatrical bit was good, at the end!

This play could be written for radio and I followed it with only the one question, which, by the way, was not really a cliff hanger.  It was enjoyable and may tighten up on tour. I laughed at the same time as the rest of the audience which means the play does not rely on too many visual cues. The music cues were varied and the scene changes appeared to be obvious enough. A knowledge of Fleet Street and references to El Vinos should be familiar enough to anyone with some awareness of journalism and the running of a newspaper title. 

The cast is:
Penelope Keith – June Pepper
Flora Montgomery - Pauline
Jonathon Firth - Eric
Christopher Ravenscroft – The Suit

Producer Theatre Royal Bath Productions.
Director Tom Littler.
The production is on tour at the following locations:

Mon, 15th October 2012 to Sat, 20th October 2012
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Mon, 22nd October 2012 to Sat, 27th October 2012
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Mon, 29th October 2012 to Sat, 3rd November 2012
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Mon, 5th November 2012 to Sat, 10th November 2012
Arts Theatre, Cambridge

Mon, 12th November 2012 to Sat, 17th November 2012
Malvern Theatres, Malvern