Over on Grim Street

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
York DramaSoc
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Over on Grim Street

Since the death of her husband, eighty-year-old Tabitha (Kit Clark) has lived a half-life. She does not challenge the bullying of her overbearing best friend, tries to accept the apparent reluctance of her son to visit and ignores the possibility of a second relationship. Perhaps she just needs a push out of her routine. Even so, the sudden appearance of Death (Filippo Del Bo), on the run since losing his cool and wiping out a group of people, seems a bit much. The odd couple are united in loneliness and losing, or questioning, their sense of purpose.

Humanising Death is hardly a new idea—Terry Pratchett imagined an aloof observer, fascinated and baffled by humanity while Neil Gaiman offered a rather sexy Goth. Filippo Del Bo is a self-aggrandising figure, fond of gazing into the middle distance and, in a deep Dracula-style accent, making solemn declarations which somehow sound comedic and a bit self-pitying. The only awful thing, he groans, is his own existence.

Death's grandiosity is a sharp contrast with the down-to-earth attitude of Tabitha. After Death shows his true power (in a scarlet screen and to the theme from The Omen), Tabitha remarks gleefully, "they’d love you in Blackpool". When Death objects to being seen by other people, she covers his skull with a dishcloth. Tabitha’s resigned attitude draws Death’s sympathy and he grudgingly accepts her need to act as hostess and takes refreshments he does not need.

Writer / director Lucy-Jo Finnighan finds some new comic aspects to an immortal being. There is a feeling of world-weariness about Death—being omniscient, nothing surprises him, so he is a dull conversationalist constantly remarking, "I Know." He really has been there and bought the tee-shirt. The character, who is, after all, from another state of existence, seems to miss the point of being human, obsessing over the wrong details and warning of the perils of lichen. Naturally, he has no sense of humour and misses the joke about The Grim Reaper visiting Grim Street.

Over on Grim Street began as a stage play and the transfer to streamed entertainment is not completely successful. Close-ups make it hard to ignore the cast is a group of millennials pretending to be eighty years old. One can see how the stage would have offered the opportunity for more visual and physical comedy.

Over on Grim Street is a bittersweet, gently funny play about coming to terms with loss and facing up to the inevitable.

Reviewer: David Cunningham