Death is seldom a topic that people are drawn to, yet it affects everyone at some point or other in their lives. Obviously at this point in time, it’s never away from the headlines, but what is seldom addressed in any public space is how to cope during such times and what are the normal reactions, emotions and ways of thinking during bereavment. Good Grief – a ‘dramedy’ written by Lorien Haynes and directed by Natalie Abrahami – broaches this subject with sensitivity, balancing the fragility that surfaces at such times with the raw, exposed emotions that stem from lack of closure. A hybrid of film and theatre, Good Grief utilises the strengths of both storytelling techniques to craft a narrative rooted in frankness.
Adam (Nikesh Patel) and Cat (Sian Clifford) return from the wake of Liz – Adam’s wife and former best friend. Uncovering the reason for this ‘estrangement’, while seemingly of minor concen, dovetails into the changing dynamics of a person with a terminal illness and their loved ones. In the immediate subsequent months, Adam and Cat are in contact most days – either in person or on the phone – as they deal with the practical matters regarding Liz’s personal effects. On one hand, Adam doesn’t want to dispose of certain things, because of their sentimental value and associated memories. On the other hand, they will be a constant, painful reminder of someone who isn’t coming back. ‘Moving on’ would be impossible – the objects exerting emotional ennui on Adam’s mental well-being.
We see in Good Grief how the nature of someone’s death plays a major part in the grieving process. While Liz’s cancer lasted eight years, both Adam and Liz were unable to say their goodbyes at the very end. In Cat’s case, she was ‘grieving’ for Liz months ago, who surrounded herself with a new set of friends, who Cat believes didn’t have her best interests at heart. When there is unresolved resentment and pain, time offers no healing balm…
The chemistry between Clifford and Patel is the bedrock of this tale, as they navigate around each other’s impromptu bursts of anger and bouts of exasperation. Of course this emotional candidness and mutual dependence on each other lays bare their vulnerability and their feelings for each other.
Widowers ‘moving on’ shortly after their wives’ demise are a cliché, and people would most certainly comment on Liz’s husband and best friend becoming an item, especially so soon after her death. But when would be the ‘right’ time and who would be an appropriate person for Adam to enter a ‘rebound’ relationship with?
Of course, a lot of etiquette regarding ‘dating’ has changed significantly over the years, but that doesn’t mean self-imposed ‘rules’ are absent today, such as ‘Dry January’ – a public health campaign that’s only existed since 2013. As Liz was an atheist who had firm views on what she did or didn’t subscribe to, her words beyond the grave carry weight with Adam with regards to future ‘expectations’ and ‘duty’…
Central to the success of Good Grief is its frank depiction of human behaviour and that even during such times of emotional stress, clarity and closure are seldom found on one’s own.
© Michael Davis 2021
TRAILER – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbX9z0SGH5Y
Good Grief is streaming from February 15 – April 15. Tickets for can be purchased at: https://originaltheatreonline.com/productions/13/good-grief