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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Kelly’

Seeing Saved two days before prepared me for a depressing experience. …….but Mike Leigh’s Grief isn’t depressing, it’s just sad.

We’re in 1957/58 and Dorothy still hasn’t come to terms with being a war widow. She struggles to maintain a functional relationship with her teenage daughter Victoria. Her brother Edwin lives with them but contributes nothing. Victoria does teenage rebellion. Edwin pours the sherry and occasionally breaks into song, with Dorothy joining in. Dorothy makes the tea. Their lives are dull, predictable and ever so sad. The performances of Lesley Manville, Sam Kelly and Ruby Bentall are however extraordinary.

Light relief is provided by occasional visits from Edwin’s friend Hugh (a lovely cameo from David Horovitch) and Dorothy’s friends Gertrude and Muriel, a terrific double-act from Marion Bailey and Wendy Nottingham. These three boast about their children’s achievements, their foreign holidays and their charitable acts. They also provide some well needed laughs to break up the sadness.

Alison Chitty’s design is pitch perfect late 50’s and I found myself spending much of the time soaking up the details of the brilliant set and costumes. This attention to detail is matched by the performances where every expression, glance and shrug seems to have meaning.

There are far too many short scenes, which creates an unsatisfying staccato feel and disrupts the flow of the piece. It’s a moving portrait of grief and sadness but it doesn’t really go anywhere and outstays it’s welcome by at least 30 minutes. Go for the performances and period picture, but don’t expect  much of a drama.

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I felt like I’d gate-crashed a party. The rest of the audience was clapping entrances & exits and whooping & cheering lines and performances. The set looked like one of those period rooms in a museum – ‘Victorian Mill Owners Parlour, 1908’ – which had come alive with all of these people in period costumes.

I’ve seen the play twice before – in 1988 with Patricia Routledge, Prunella Scales and Patricia Hayes (who had been the maid in the original production 50 years earlier) and 14 years ago with Alison Steadman and Dawn French – but this time it seemed much more of a creaky old warhorse, the stuff of rep and tours that rarely gets into the West End but was paying a visit and had brought its provincial audience with it.

It’s not very typical of Priestly, a playwright much more fond of moralistic pieces like An Inspector Calls. It’s a simple comedy about three couple who, on their silver anniversaries, discover their marriages may not be legal. It’s well structured and there are some funny lines, but it now seems insubstantial stuff – though in all fairness it was two nights after my second look at the extraordinary Clybourne Park.

The chief pleasure – and I mean this affectionately not patronisingly or critically – is seeing a bunch of old pro’s like Roy Hudd, Sam Kelly, Lynda Baron and Maureen Lipman letting their hair down and having some late career fun; in the end this proved a bit infectious and I warmed to it (though that may have been the third glass of wine in the interval!).

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