The Theatreguide.London Review
Royal Court Upstairs Spring 2012
Opening the Royal Court's Young Writers Festival is, surprisingly, a play about old people.
Luke Norris's sensitive and sympathetic look at what might be his grandparents not only offers convincing insights into the older generation's emotions and psychology, but repeatedly takes surprising turns, leading us into unexpected places.
Why would a man in his sixties decide to leave his wife for the widow he's been seeing on the side? Norris realises that some of the reasons are totally different from those a man twenty years younger would have – sex and even love play a very small role – while others, notably the fear that he has wasted his life up to now, would be familiar to anyone in a midlife crisis, just as the two women's responses will be a mix of the predictable and the surprising.
But just as we have begun to absorb his insights, Norris injects a catastrophic event and watches as it changes everything, shifting the balance of power and bringing out qualities in the characters they might not themselves have been aware they were capable of.
And so the play becomes about something both bigger and deeper than superannuated adultery, about a clash between love as ownership and love as sacrifice, and about the rights (and limits to those rights) conferred by a lifetime of history.
The playwright is aided considerably by the strong and sensitive direction of Simon Godwin and by a cast prepared to take us deep into their characters. Susan Brown has the most to explore and discover, as the wife refuses to play the passive victim, while Linda Marlowe keeps the other woman from being the villain of the piece.
Roger Sloman shows us a decent man making choices he had tried to avoid and then finding himself no longer in control of the situation, and Alexander Cobb takes a grandson on a difficult journey from moral outrage through sympathy to courageous action.
Only in the last ten minutes or so of the play, when Norris flirts with changing direction again, toward something considerably less original and satisfying than what has gone before, does he make what might be a false step (He pulls back, but the hint was distracting and potentially disappointing).
Goodbye To All That is a very impressive work, one more in a long string of successes for the Royal Court's nurturing of young playwrights.
Goodbye To All That - Royal Court 2012
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