Frank Wilkie’s “Good Grief”
Playing spot the therapist
Frank Wilkie’s Good Grief saw actors Radhika Kochhar and Vineet Nair at their best
Theatre practitioners ever so often stick to the Absurdists when it comes to performing quality English theatre. But Hakim’s company, Aalim, in association with Keenaav, attempted the difficult by staging Australian playwright Frank Willie’s “Good Grief”. A former journalist and news editor, Wilkie’s first play was “Newsroom” while his second play, “Good Grief” won several awards at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
“Good Grief”— hilarious in parts and outrageous and bizarre in others — portrays a role reversal between counsellor and patient. Evelyn Barge is a therapist from Hell, if you please. And her patient, a tragedy-scarred man who has made confusing decisions in his life, is at the mercy of Barge’s psycho-sexual agenda. The diffident and desperate patient finds himself listening more to Barge’s outpouring of misery, bordering on the hysterical, than finding any solace from her.
Though a comedy, “Good Grief” traverses the many moods and perspectives of both therapist and patient, making it even more interesting. The effective use of lights helped enhance the production by highlighting the moods of the play, from the sinister to the comic.
Directed by Vineet Nair, “Good Grief” was well-handled by both Radhika Kochhar, who plays Evelyn Barge, and the director, who plays the patient. It ought to be borne in mind though that “Good Grief” has no layers to it. There are no hard questions that the audience should ponder over. If the audience is at all left wondering, it would be about the acting. They say the first impression is the best impression. In the case of “Good Grief”, I would agree. Keen attention was paid to the sets and stage management and the one quality that defined the production was authenticity. From the sets and costumes to the acting, it was clear that the production team was determined to keep it real and professional. They did so, admirably.
It was evident that both Radhika and Vineet went through intense training in adopting Australian accents. So the first good part of the performance is that no matter how much the duo lost themselves in their roles, their accents never slipped. There are of course differing views on whether accents are really required. Accents are probably unnecessary if staged before an Indian audience. We would rather watch a play without having to decipher the accent. In parts, the narrative flags because one is trying to understand what the actors are saying. Overall, the production was worth a watch.