Gwilym Lawrence and Laura Remmler
Place and Means, in association with Cap-a-Pie
Ouseburn Community Farm, Newcastle
I was unable to go to the first Newcastle performance of Good Riddance, which, from my point of view, was a good thing because it rained - a lot. However for the performance I did see the weather was beautiful and the streets and pathways around Ouseburn, a valley leading down to the River Tyne and not far from Newcastle city centre, were filled with people enjoying the sunshine, so this piece of promenade theatre was also an enjoyable 90-minute walk.
Sometimes - too often in my experience - promenade performances are simply a way of putting an individual stamp on an otherwise traditional piece but Good Riddance was conceived as a promenade and so could not be done any other way.
Surprisingly, however, it is not site-specific: because the setting is a fictional city it could be performed anywhere - and, indeed, has been seen in London and Jerusalem in addition to Newcastle. Obviously minor adjustments are made to the script to relate it to the current city but the locations are, in the main, sufficiently generic to fit almost anywhere.
We, the audience, are being taken on a walking tour, led by a frankly pretty useless tour guide (Gwilym Lawrence) and his assistant Ari (Laura Remmler) whom he constantly belittles and bullies. Very early on both manage to contrive to speak to us alone, sparking suspicion about the other and dropping dire hints about involvement in what appears to be the city's pervasive criminality. And we are told about secret messages which we may find as the tour progresses, messages which we might share with each other but must conceal from the other protagonist.
And this is the whole point of the play. As the tour continues and messages are found, we begin to find meaning in some of the Guide's occasional seemingly meaningless wandering off topic, in the interchanges between him and his assistant and in what at first appear to be irrelevant comments made to us. Gradually a story of criminality, disturbed individuals and dysfunctional relationships unfolds.
Did we really get to the bottom of it? Did we even find all the hidden messages? I don't know, and therein lies part of the fascination of the piece.
We also find ourselves turning from being strangers to each other to colleagues in finding out the truth.
Writers and performers Lawrence and Remmler maintain their characters throughout - not easy to do in such close proximity to the audience - responding to comments and questions, hurrying us along if we fell behind, reacting to passers-by and to unexpected events.
It is certainly fascinating and enjoyable and the 90 minutes pass quickly.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan