Hope Theatre, London – until 11 September 2021
Written by Gail Louw, the good dad (a love story) is a compelling piece about the devastating impact sexual abuse and incest has on three different women. It is a masterclass in shifting perspectives that add new nuance and intrigue to what would otherwise be a horribly bleak story. Donna was sexually abused and raped from childhood by her Dad. Her twin sister Carol surely must have suspected something, why didn’t she say anything? Or did she? And her mother, well let’s just say she sees Donna as the other woman. As time goes by, and Donna can see her Dad falling back into recognisable patterns, it is up to her to do something about it. Except that isn’t where we start, we start at the end and look back, with the story told from the rubble of these three women’s lives.
Sarah Lawrie is magnificent as these three distinct women. While there are simple wardrobe cues to track who she is, her shifts in body language and voice are so clear you can tell who she is even before she has completed the wardrobe transition. It is hard to take your eyes off her, she is captivating, which makes it impossible to look away when, as Donna, she opens up about exactly what her Dad did to her.
Director Anthony Shrubsall makes good use of the intimate space, pulling the audience into the piece through shattered fourth walls, pushing Lawrie’s firm gaze out towards us. We are not mere observer, we are invited to makes sense of it all.
Louw has a clear understanding of the complexity of this kind of sexual violence, the strange mix of love and hate that comes with being violated by someone you should be able to trust, and the hypnotic power of effective grooming. There is an exquisite truthfulness in the way the unsayable is revealed, each woman exposing in her own way how this man, this “good dad” with a bad heart, got away with so much.
the good dad (a love story) runs at the Hope Theatre until 11th September, with performances at 9pm. Despite the dark subject matter, this is an intriguing and surprisingly engaging piece. I was hooked from start to finish. To find out more or book tickets you can go here: https://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/the-good-dad/
Trigger warnings: incest, rape, sexual abuse and childhood grooming.