I saw this over a fortnight ago but I saw it on the same day as I saw St Matthew Passion, and I REALLY wanted to write that up. Then I saw The Kitchen and I REALLY wanted to write that up. Anyway, I can now get round to talking about this (I think the fact that I was not that bothered about writing it up will give you a hint as to how I feel about it!). It will be worth the wait, however, because in the interim I have also attended the Mike Leigh Platform (talk) on this, where he talked about his new play.
Grief is a very detailed portrait of domestic life in the 50s, with the focus squarely on the lives of women. So you really get to experience what it was like, on a day to day basis, being a housewife in the 50s - what you would have been thinking and what you would have been doing. It is also - as it names suggests - a study of Grief. The interesting aspect of this for me was the relationship women had at that time with their female friends. You can tell that this piece has been painstakingly researched and that every detail is correct.
However, for me, I thought the piece was mind-numbingly boring. It was difficult to sit through 2 hours of someone's daily life - Big Brother on stage without the personalities. The characters were "English" - as in stiff upper lip and repressed, so the acting is all in what they are not saying rather than what they are. I have no problems with plays set in the home - The Holy Rosenbergs was set entirely in the home. But I like plays that have meat to them and make me think. I like plays about issues (history, social justice, politics, just SOMETHING!). All this play made me think was ... I am glad I was not a Englishwoman living in the 50s - I would have died of boredom!
Yes the play packs a punch at the end - but it is not worth sitting through two hours of tedium just for that. In fact, I thought that the most heart-breaking moment was not right at the end, but when the brother returns home after retiring from the office job that he has been doing for 45 years. He is not given a proper send-off and it broke his heart. He is also thinking - exactly what am I supposed to be doing now? Work was what I did. What do I do now? Where is my value in society? That scene where he returns home quite broke my heart and, for me, upstages the shock ending.
In summary, I did not like this and I will not be promoting it or recommending it to anyone (bar a particular friend, who is very interested in the detail of women's domestic lives in the post-war period!).
However, if others think differently about this play, please feel free to speak up!
The four new plays on in the Paintframe over the Summer were quality writing and genius. They all made you think. Take this off and put them on instead!