first night

Good Grief

Grace Cheatle finds comedy at the unlikeliest of occasions.

To perform a musical which is so firmly grounded in what can be deemed highly sensitive subject matter is brave, but to pull it off with such humour and candour is a feat.

Fountains Theatre Company transformed what is typically a college sports hall into a perfect setting for their bereavement-based musical with just a few select and hugely effective touches. Director Imogen Beech's choice to place a real coffin in the centre of the space and having the audience seated either side - akin to the congregation at a church service - immediately forces the audience into the realisation that the production is born out of loss. Though the witty script frequently allows one to forget the characters are in mourning for an estranged father, in the moments of self-reflection there is a certain poignancy which touches the audience perhaps more than they would anticipate.

Of course, no matter how wonderful a script may be, it is nothing if the performers themselves are lacking. Luckily the cast of 'Good Grief' were strong overall, creating the most beautiful harmonies when singing together in the ensemble numbers. To depart from hilarity into self-awareness and sadness can be a difficult transition, but all cast members handled the emotional changes superbly. 'Endurance', a song performed by the entire cast was simply gorgeous and was one which left me with goosebumps. Though the vocal talents of the performers were impressive, equal praise must undoubtedly go to the band, who, under the superb musical direction of Dave Collins, were marvellous. The band and vocalists work marvellously together to establish atmospheres ranging from utter loathing to pure grief and for this all must be admired.

The script does descend further into farce as the play progresses, but it's not necessarily unwelcome. The initial entrance of Livia Carron, playing the saucepot French teacher Miranda Gould, is quite something! Dolled up in a leopard print corset she provides a stark contrast to the mourning family and her rendition of 'Mama Know What a Man Needs' had the audience in hysterics as her lustful advances complement the awkward social ineptitude of Russell Lamb's Freddie Miller. The sufficiently aggravating Tilly Miller was brought to life by Izzy Osbourne with her 'gap yah' air leaving Jess Hof's Sam Hart comically floundering amidst a family of neurotics. The bickering couple Charlotte Miller and Phil Hamilton-Reynolds (played by Lottie Rugeroni and Sam Harper-Booth) had fantastic comic timing and real chemistry. 'Peace At Last', which was effectively a couples row set to music, was a personal favourite of mine. Rugeroni's portrayal of the fabulously shrill and highly-strung Charlotte the 'fun sponge' and Harper-Booth's weary long-suffering Phil are outstanding. Their duet, perfectly sung and dripping with disdain, allows the comedic elements of Lucy Hughes’ and Stephanie Jayne Amies’ script really to come into its element.

FTC's production of 'Good Grief' is riotous and surprisingly light-hearted. Although the script has its more apparent moments of student writing, it's a hugely enjoyable production with a cast, band, and crew who should be acclaimed for taking the production from its original Edinburgh Fringe setting and transferring it so successfully to Durham's Fountains Hall.

16 November 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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