Good Grief

Lorien Haynes
Platform Presents
Original Theatre Online

Nikesh Patel and Sian Clifford Credit: Platform Presents
Sian Clifford Credit: Platform Presents
Nikesh Patel Credit: Platform Presents

If the title hadn’t given the game away, viewers might imagine that the opening scene of this two-hander was taking place in the aftermath of some typically lively wedding celebrations.

Instead, Cat and Adam are coming back to earth following the wake for Adam’s incongruously-named artist wife Liv, still only in her 20s or early 30s and thus arguably not even in the prime of life. While what follows over a tense 50 minutes is inevitably a tearjerker, there is also a vein of dark comedy to make a play that might otherwise have been unbearable into a moving drama.

The producers of Good Grief have ensured that the production qualities will be of the highest, casting popular stars Sian Clifford, who will always be remembered as the sister in the television version of Fleabag, and Nikesh Patel, who portrayed Foaly in Artemis Fowl.

To ensure that the actors would give memorable performances, they then invited highly regarded director Natalie Abrahami who works with minimal sets that appear to be created from a rehearsal room.

The drama may only last 50 minutes but it certainly packs a punch. This is primarily because the writing is so naturalistic that we are immediately able to identify not only with the two people in the room but also the deceased and their shared circle of friends. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that playwright Lorien Haynes penned the piece as a response to her own feelings following the loss of a close friend.

Symbolically, it opens post-wake one February following the conclusion of Liv’s seven-year battle with cancer. We then meet the London-based duo through a series of snapshots taken at roughly monthly intervals with a final jump of a few months to October. Each succeeding meeting shows how a partner and a best friend react to a catastrophe and it is fascinating to observe the similarities and distinctions between their responses.

The structure is effective, allowing the creative team to explore the long, slow and often bumpy road to recovery in the aftermath of a loss of this kind and is enhanced by a well-judged score composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge.

Equally strong and sensitive acting from Sian Clifford and Nikesh Patel, bringing out all of the pain of a tender situation, ensures that a really strong script is given full justice.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher