Old Red Lion Theatre, London – until 22 July 2017
Guest reviewer: Sarah Tinsley
In a claustrophobic set where the actors never really leave, we are confronted with a father and daughter’s grief, after the loss of the one person who held them together – Mum.
From organising funerals and contacting relatives, to dealing with a string of comments from well-wishers on Facebook, there’s a lot to be done. But both of them are trapped, unable, at first, to get any sense of progression or resolution. In the three days after her death they seem to have been covering the same square of carpet, and he hasn’t even managed to get dressed.
Their inability to cope with the bare fact of this beloved woman’s death (and the realisation that she was the one that took care of difficult things for both of them) is interrupted by a takeaway delivery, which turns out to have far more macabre undertones than your standard Big Mac, and forces them to address their true feelings about loss, and each other. Their mother has arranged for a ‘digestive memorial’ – something that places a surreal and pretty funny take on the whole proceedings. Whether the meat was what it was claimed to be is never answered, so the audience are left watching a grim feast, treated to the actual cooking and preparation on stage, the lingering smell of meat rendering us all more than aware of our animal and mortal status.
In an interesting take on modern society, both characters seek escape from their reality through digital technology. It resonates with the hum of sensationalist and shocking media we are exposed to on a daily basis – but how do you cope when the video everyone’s sharing is the death of your personal loved one?
While Tiffany wallows on YouTube and Twitter, Hugh turns to film – desperately trying to re-create moments of filial tenderness, in an effort to connect to his daughter in their time of grief. It’s an interesting comment on our world, that they both turn to the digital world, rather than each other, for answers. The realisation of this is done in a mesmerising way, where bright screens flash up behind the characters, immersing us in their attempts at escape.
As the play unfolds, the gaps between the people we think we know and their other selves start to fragment. Both relationships don’t quite overlap, with each discovering hidden parts of the person they loved. It highlights the impossibility of truly knowing those we care about, with some incredibly touching moments from both characters.
Hugh, played by Andrew Frame, is subdued, confined by his grief, while Tiffany, played by Rosie Wyatt, is fragile and frantic, veering from one crisis to the next. While the emotional content was important, it sometimes felt a little more variation in her delivery might lead to more of an impact when there was a true moment of emotional climax. The emotional disconnect between the two is profound, which jars beautifully at first, before they begin to find common ground. At times it felt as if the premise was stretched out, only because some of the dialogue was a little similar. Sarah Kosar’s script is lyrical in places and you have to admire the brashness of addressing such usually taboo issues on the stage.
Perhaps the most touching moments were the most disturbing. While many of the audience were laughing, it was a fine line between humour and disgust, which is perhaps what made it resonate so much. In the end, the one thing that divided them in the memories of the woman they loved, ended up being the thing that comforted them and brought them together.
While the ending might have felt abrupt to some, I appreciated the lack of resolution. There are no easy solutions to death and grief, and it would be disingenuous if such a thoughtful piece tried to tell us otherwise.
A darkly funny tale of grief and love, that will forever change the way you see burgers.