Tag Archives: Natalie Abrahami

“Good Grief” from Platform Presents and Finite films

With director Natalie Abrahami on board, Lorien Haynes’ impressive new piece explores the impact of grief. With a naturalistic feel and fantastic attention to detail, there are wonderful performances, so it’s a show to enjoy despite the difficult subject matter. Nikesh Patel plays Adam, who has lost his wife Liv to cancer, and Sian Clifford takes the role of their friend Cat. Both performances complement the strong observations in the script.

Sian Clifford in Good Grief
Sian Clifford

Clifford has called the mix of play and film a “plilm”. I respectfully disagree! It’s filmed in a studio space with the simplest of props, and captions introduce the date and location of each scene, but Abrahami brings the theatre to the screen better than most. There’s an air of a successful workshop, of rehearsals freshly completed and a real feel of the theatre – just what I need right now, thank you.

Good Grief has shortcomings. Firstly, while injecting humour is a fine idea, the jokes aren’t good. The humour isn’t dark or original enough. This becomes an increasing problem as Adam is supposed to be funny. With “always a joke” to hand, some of them need to land.

The friends’ relationship is established and developed well. Aided by the performances, both characters are made appealing and they are recognisable. It’s not much of a plot spoiler…

Nikesh Patel in Good Grief
Nikesh Patel

…to say that Adam and Cat end up sleeping together. But this raises another quibble. Much of the drama comes from how shocking you find the sexual element or how convincing the subsequent guilt is. Maybe a stronger sense of their community might help? Other friends are mentioned and what other people will think is questioned a lot. But the idea of the close-knit, well-to-do clique they belong to is vague. Neither seems to like the other people in their lives, so why should they bother what they think?

Haynes gives due weight to both characters’ mourning – it feels important to note that friends grieve as well as partners. There’s real insight here. Even more impressive, while Good Grief is a tear-jerker it never feels emotionally manipulative. The temptation, for a writer, must be strong. Admittedly, there’s a posthumous letter from Liv that makes a pretty harrowing scene. But Haynes holds firm to give us a candid picture of grief that rings true with its realism, and is both moving and intelligent.

Until 15 April 2021

www.originaltheatreonline.com

“Ah Wilderness!” at the Young Vic

Small-town family life, along with youthful ideals and romance, are the subjects of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah Wilderness! Infused with poetry and memory, Natalie Abrahami’s sensitive revival adds a melancholic edge to this surprisingly gentle coming-of-age story.

This is O’Neill in an uncharacteristically good mood as he dwells on domesticity, reminisces about youthful rebellion and speculates about parenthood. Tinged with nostalgia and filled with ardour the play has an almost whimsical feel that’s quite charming.

George_MacKay_in_Ah_Wilderness_at_the_Young_Vic._Photo_by_Johan_Persson
George MacKay

Ah Wilderness! is also a memory play and a work very much for fans of O’Neill, who feels like a huge presence in this production. Set directions can be heard in the background and O’Neill’s younger alter-ego, Richard, performed vibrantly by George Mackay, is followed around by David Annen, who slips into smaller roles while taking notes and observing the action – suggesting a ghost at the feast – with great economy.

There are also strong performances from Martin Marquez and Janie Dee as Richard’s parents, while Yasmin Paige tackles well the uncomfortably written role of a prostitute. But the star is Dick Bird’s eye-catching set: a mountain of sand, cascading from expressionist doorways, that contains hidden props. This serves to emphasise time and is a sardonic hint at an unhappy future.

This production has a lot going for it, but, sadly, its stories of lost love and innocence are not quite interesting enough. It’s a shame that, for all the care, attention and ideas, the play itself is a little dull. It may be a quality affair with no shortage of insight – and I doubt anyone will be disappointed by attending – but this doesn’t feel like essential viewing. Sorry.

Until 23 May 2015

www.youngvic.org

Photo by Johan Persson

“How to be an other woman” at the Gate Theatre

How to be an other woman, at the Gate Theatre Notting Hill, is director Natalie Abrahami’s sassy adaptation of Lorrie Moore’s book. Taking the form of a self-help text, four talented actresses perform all the roles in a story of adultery. With its 80s soundtrack, witty lines and theatrical inventiveness, this short production is the most fun you could have in an hour – without having an affair.

Samal Blak’s marvellous design has the ensemble presented as fantasising shop assistants. Abrahami directs (using Aline David’s choreography) a seamless dance of emotions and laughter. Each actress takes turns at the role of Charlene, a young woman obsessed with possessions and Emma Bovary. From the thrill of her new role as a mistress, to the inevitable heartbreak that results, the performances are all fantastic. Both Cath Whitefield and Ony Uhiara are hilarious when they play the married man Charlene falls for, Faye Castelow has some wonderful moments as her friend at work, and Samantha Pearl does especially well in making us feel for Charlene when the truth of the affair dawns on her.

Because, of course, having an affair isn’t fun at all. Charlene’s paranoia about the woman who is her rival is darkly comic but becomes bitter. Wives are compared to cockroaches who ‘travel in packs’. Increasingly isolated, Charlene realises she has moved from being an other women to another woman – a person she no longer recognises in the mirror.

Thankfully, since we have come to like her so much, unlike Madame Bovary, Charlene can ‘reclaim’ herself, lie a little about being fine, and move on. I guarantee you will leave the theatre wanting to hear more of her adventures.

Until 2 October 2010

www.gatetheatre.co.uk

Photo by Simon Kane

Written 2 September 2010 for The London Magazine