Alexander Cobb (David) and Roger Sloman (Frank). Photo byTristram KentonReviewed by James Karas
Goodbye to All That is a brilliant first play by Luke Norris that premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Norris has taken a simple idea and nurtured it into a well-constructed play that is moving, funny ironic and thoroughly enjoyable.
The simple idea: Frank, a married, old man falls in love with another woman, Rita. He feels liberated by the act and is about to separate from Iris, his wife of forty years and go to live with his new love. In the process of leaving his wife, he suffers a stroke and that puts an end to the affair and for all intents and purposes to him.
As a stroke victim he requires extensive and expensive medical attention that his wife cannot afford. His lover can and wants to but we realise the biting irony that if he gets well he will leave his wife. What is his wife to do? Is she to nurse him back to health for his mistress?
The play is produced in the small Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in the Royal Court where the stage is smaller than some living rooms.
David (Alexander Cobb) meets his grandfather Frank (Roger Sloman) in a golf club lounge and confronts him with the fact that he, Frank, is having an affair. He demands that he stop. Frank does the opposite and admits the affair to his wife Iris (Susan Brown) who throws him out.
Norris’s play changes scenes quickly and efficiently as we go to Rita’s apartment, David’s apartment, the hospital and a care home. The actors move the few pieces of furniture around and we change locale quickly.
One of the strengths of the play is that all four characters are completely believable. There is no battle of good and evil, there is no sleaze. The 18-year old David loves his grandparents and wants to protect his grandmother first and later his grandfather. Cobb shows the intensity and candour of David in a well-done performance.
Sloman has simply fallen in love and looks back on his life with his wife where there is no love and perhaps there never was. He is a decent man but there are corners of his life that leave us wondering. Why has no one visited him in the hospital or the care facility or even sent a get well card?
Susan Brown’s Iris is the “good wife” who devoted herself to caring for him before and after the stroke. She must decide to accept money from her husband’s mistress or let him remain a complete invalid. Even her grandson abandons her and sides with Rita. An excellent acting job.
Marlowe’s performance is equally convincing. She is not some harlot but a woman in her 60’s who has fallen in love but more importantly she does not abandon her lover when it becomes clearly obvious that he will never recover.
The simple situation has some intricate subtexts from the relationship of Frank and Iris with their daughter, to their own relationship, to the decisions that must be made right to the harrowing end.
The production is brilliantly directed by Simon Godwin.
This is the type of new writing that one wants to see and let’s give Luke Norris a standing ovation for his debut as a playwright.
Goodbye to All That by Luke Norris played from February 23 and to March 17, 2012 at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, England. www.royalcourttheatre.com/