Sunday, 5 September 2021

REVIEW: The Good Dad (A Love Story) at the Hope Theatre

The online flyers for the Good Dad (A Love Story) appear quite daunting at first glance. Decrees to honour thy mother and thy father are spiritually demanding propositions; and mean many things to many people. However, it becomes evident this is a powerful story based on true events from the 1980s. It naturally gives the play greater impact because we easily connect with real characters. Be warned, this is no easy ride as it tugs at family dynamics and raw nerves exposed by conflict. For the audience, it will educate and enlighten before it entertains. With the ‘E’ words in that order, we know what to expect. 

Playwright Gail Louw pulls absolutely no punches in this hard-hitting one-woman show starring Sarah Lawrie. She plays Donna who awakes incarcerated in a cell. Over the course of the next 60 minutes, we get to find out exactly why. The audience are presented with the detailed exposition of a dysfunctional family; nothing unusual there, all families are, to a greater or lesser extent.

But skilful storytelling quickly draws out the nature of characters that don't appear on stage. Donna describes a surprisingly cold relationship with twin sister Carol; wistful dreams of romance with class heartthrob Jack. A strained rapport with Mum is clearly evident, while psychiatrist Larry does his best to understand Donna. But it’s her all-consuming relationship with Dad that logically dominates the piece.

A play featuring one actor on stage without any breaks is a hefty challenge; both for the actor and creatives. But they manage to pull it off with relative ease. Sarah Lawrie is excellent in the role, effectively playing half a dozen characters with total conviction. But wisely she chooses not to adopt different voices or intonation. A clear narrative and well-paced delivery makes the interchange between characters easy to follow. It's also a tribute to the skills of writer Gail Louw and director Anthony Shrubsall who maintain such a coherent plot with clear transitions.

The show has got the late slot starting at 9pm which leaves plenty of time for last orders at the excellent bar downstairs. The Good Dad is sometimes a disturbing but frequently thoughtful study of where fractured relationships can sometimes lead. You'll try not to watch but can't stop yourself being drawn in. It's a play with attitude and self-confidence in a brutally honest portrayal. It's well worth an hour of anyone's time.

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unallocated | Price of Ticket: £15/£12 concessions
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