Play Review: Grief

26 Jan

Mike Leigh is one of my favourite writer/directors of all time, both on stage and screen. Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake, Naked, Ecstasy, Abigail’s Party, there are too many pieces by him that I love. As soon as this play was announce, I had to grab a ticket. Perhaps I was anticipating it a bit too much. A lot of people were though. This play was commissioned by the National even before Leigh had finished it. Of course, people were instantly fascinated and intrigued as to what this new project would be.

Grief, which was only titled a few days before opening night, takes place during the 1950s in the living room of war widow Dorothy (Lesley Manville). Dorothy lives in a London suburb with her fifteen year old daughter Victoria(Ruby Bentall) and her older, bachelor brother Edwin (Sam Kelly). Dorothy is trying her best to be a good mother for Dorothy but Dorothy is proving to be a hard child to deal with.

If there’s one thing that cannot be criticised it’s the performances. Manville is one of the most underrated actresses and I personally feel that she’s of the Meryl Streep caliber and just not known for it. She’s wowed me in a lot of her collaborations with Leigh and I still firmly believe the Oscar should’ve gone to Manville last year for her standout performance in Another Year. She’s fantastic here and all of her character’s drama can be portrayed in one facial expression by this fine actress. Ruby Bentall is a force to be reckoned with as Victoria and her hostile character comes through. I had never heard of her prior to seeing this production but she’s a young actress that needs to be watched. Lastly, Sam Kelly is breathtaking in his role and incredibly memorable.

Take away the performances, the play in itself feels very choppy and jagged. There was one scene that was brilliant and one scene that was awful. It really revolves around the relationship between the mother and daughter and it excels at doing that but it lacked that rich absorbing nature that people are used to seeing from a Mike Leigh production. The staging is good and the 50s is captured well. If Leigh is not on top form with his writing, he definitely excels with his direction and choreography of his actors. Actors clearly know what they’re doing and the play feels tight.

I can’t so much hate this play as just not be amazed by it. Leigh’s not at his best but it’s still not a horrible piece of work. Just nothing memorable.

Rating: 3/5

2 Responses to “Play Review: Grief”

  1. colincarman January 27, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Awesome, Leigh is a master! Where is this playing?

    • aculturedlad February 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

      He really is! It was on at the National in the Cottesloe but has ended now. Fortunately, Leigh’s classic Abigail’s Party is being revived at the Menier Chocolate Factory with Lindsay Posner directing it.

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