Adam’s partner Liv has just died from cancer at a tragically young age. We first encounter him being comforted by family friend Cat after the Wake - our convoluted journey beginning with the late arrival of too much pizza. Over the following months we see snapshots of the pair as they mourn their loss individually and together.
Nikesh Patel (Adam) deals easily with the immense emotional arc required of him. Paralysis is followed by irrationality and on to realisation, rationalisation, and the cusp of acceptance.
The chemistry between himself and Sian Clifford (Cat) is constantly and deliberately off-kilter, director Abrahami making certain that the characters always reflect subconsciously exactly how conflicting certain emotional entanglements are.
Clifford’s bravado crumbles even as Patel gains a tentative new confidence. A late moment involving shoes says more about her emotional state than dialogue could manage, and there is an economy in her delivery which colours the back-story and illuminates the relationship between herself, Adam and Liv to great effect.
Haynes is one of those rare writers whom, like Annie Baker, can craft a play which turns on the final line. When it does, everything preceding is suddenly illuminated in the post-play haze. Only a single weak passage in the second scene, featuring ancient IKEA jokes and unpleasant gender stereotyping is beneath the writer’s abilities both intellectual and emotional.
Natalie Abrahami is also ideal for such constructs. Her experience with spare-language modern writing and confined spaces of the Dorfman, Almeida and Gate to name just three help her bring out the best in the actors’ timing through each intimate scene.
Filmed on location in a single room at Coptic Street Studios in London, perhaps the only questionable presentation decision is to show the stage crew working behind the time captions after each scene. There is a reason why such activity is hidden in live theatre, and it serves here only as a detrimental distraction from the performance atmosphere.
Those issues aside, this is the nearest anyone will get at present to a full theatre dramatic experience. The creative team have achieved the finest possible showcase for themselves under limited circumstances, and this is worth the ticket price and 50 minutes of your time.
‘Good Grief’ is available to stream from 15th February until 15th April 2021 at https://originaltheatreonline.com/productions/13/good-grief
Photo Credit: Johan Persson. Used by kind permission.