Review By Tess Bourguignon
Good Mourning is a 45 minute play that follows a true story of four siblings and their memories of their father who passed 13 years ago to cancer. Heart-wrenching, touching and beautifully told, this frank story invites the audience to listen, laugh and cry together in the shared experience of grieving and remembering the things and those that we’ve lost. A natural piece based on Director Hannah Armstrongs own experience of losing her dad to cancer, it asks questions about loss that confuse, frighten and comfort us. Is it ok that you might not remember exactly what your dad used to look and sound like? How many “dead dad” jokes are too many? And why is it that 13 years later, the best memories of your dad are from the few months before he died?
Performed exceptionally well by Gabrielle Aubrey, Coen Lourigan, Madeleine Osborn and Ben Rodwell who all brought an amazing sense of ease, comedy and sincerity to their characters. While there were some lines dropped and some searching for lines perhaps to due to nerves, each cast member was wholly believable, relatable and magically toed the line between sadness and good-natured comedy in their performances. Their transitions between different characters and ages was seamless and I thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry they all had as siblings that bickered, fought, laughed and experienced great loss together.
Ten minutes prior to the show, the audience was invited to wander around and explore the stage that had been dressed with handwritten notes on what loss meant to different individuals. A very thoughtful touch that helped to ease and transport viewers into a headspace that was ready to explore the themes that the show was based around - grief, loss and memories of those that had passed. A beautiful soundscape or soft electric guitar and the sounds of magpies made the experience very meditative and relaxing, and it was a very beautiful and wise choice from the team to give the audience this opportunity to feel ready for the play.
The lighting design by Rhys Mendham was appropriate and clever, yet I would love to see a more refined design with some more blended and slower fades. A small section of choreography was fun and enjoyable to watch, yet perhaps one of the only sections which I felt let down the very strong performances and thoughtful writing.
Director Hannah Armstrong and Playwright Sonia Dodd have created a beautiful and touching production and the attention to every detail did not go unnoticed- the very thoughtful set dressing and props were particularly sublime in their understated and very simple aesthetic. The most impressive and striking element of this production was the writing and directing that expertly found a perfect balance of exploring grief and death with sincerity and love that left the audience in tears, yet wholly uplifted and full of love as we exited the theatre. Written, performed and produced by Charles Sturt University Theatre Media students and graduates, this is a student production that is superbly produced, directed and performed that unites each audience member in the shared exploration of grief and family.
After already enjoying a season at Bathurst Sprung Festival, this original piece was awarded the Blair Milan Touring Prize and undeniably deserves every bit of accolade and support from this prestigious scholarship. The entire team should be extremely proud of this very professional and beautifully written piece of theatre and I look forward to seeing more work from every member.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.