A coffin presents itself, filled with bereavement snacks including malt loaf, custard creams and apple pie. Jack Rooke and his 85-year old Nan Sicely, invite you to the happiest town in Britain, where Dad’s dead and the only thing to eat is lasagne. Rooke’s critically acclaimed debut hour blends comedy, storytelling and film to explore how we treat the bereaved, whilst challenging proposed welfare cuts for grieving families and celebrating finding happiness after tragedy.
Jack Rooke’s Good Grief presents a natural, perfectly balanced yet provocative, active text, that reaches every audience member in a diverse, relatable way. A three year project discussing the taboo topic of grief, this show, seen at last years Edinburgh Fringe, is an honest demonstration of human instinct, natural humour and immersive grief. Good Grief, is a mediation on the anthropological function of death and the consequential process of grieving. As you enter the space the Spice Girls play out, constructing an informal performance space, which invites its audience to share in a collective communal thought. The show begins with an introduction to our performer, Jack, a tall curly haired captivating persona. Jack takes us through his biography, detailing his pains and angers from the death of his father and late Nan. The show following a linear structure centres around the process of grief, using laughter and comedy to work through the emotions faced.
The informal tone sustained throughout is undeniably the shows biggest asset, welcoming the audience to delve into a emphatic process. The construction not only in terms of content and presentation is innovative and engaging. The balance between the serious and moments of eruptive laughter emanate the sense of sharing in a communal environment, absent of judgement. Jack constructs a space where awkwardness is presented as a scale and mimicking oneself is an active protest of agency. It is apparent right from the off set the consideration and thought that has been invested into the show, focussing on the small details that cause the biggest laugh. The theatrical element within this show is its simplicity to engage and enlighten a subject of hardship, embarrassment and awkwardness, However, Jack, within the framing of his character, takes great care in tenderly dealing with the topic of death and grief, only derived from his own personal experiences. The sense of relatable content is contagious, a desire to invest and immerse yourself within Jack’s story is an inevitable effect, cleverly constructed by all artistic influences who worked on the show.
This production is minimalistic but offers symbolism that’s dripping with informality and individuality. The processing of stories and experiences raise the question of catharsis for Jack. Undeniably this show is personal, with Jack sharing his story, it can be questioned has he developed his own sense of self awareness and sense of self? Furthermore, this production highlights the uniqueness of grief in a clever and distinguished way, presenting the idea that life goes on, the framing of the event depending on the individual. This show offers natural interaction between inserts of video clips, sound recordings and live dialogue. The technical elements are on point, accentuating particular speeches, moments of absorption or the rare lip-sinc to a Geri Halliwell monologue.
This production is truly unique in concept and identity; it is a production that offers opportunity for an insight into the process of grief, whether experienced or not. The sense of reflection throughout is naturally poignant, including the sharing of food, audience participation and comedy. The nature of the piece symbolised with the structuring of content is not only creative but enlightening, almost a pedagogical look into the processing of grief and death. I leave the production touched by the content performed. I encourage you to book tickets even if its just so you get a ‘Get out of s**t card’.4.5/5
Review written by Meg Mattravers.
Good Grief is currently showing at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 9th April. For more information on the production, visit here…