Mike Leigh’s GRIEF playing at National Theatre
I’ve no doubt that Mike Leigh’s 2011 play GRIEF is a great work of art. As such, like most great works of art, it deserves a 15 second glance before moving on to the next masterpiece. However, this affable form of respect so oft attributed the great museum treasures is not an option – as GRIEF is a play running two hours lacking any reprieve via intermission.
It is a play in which the living room flowers change more than the characters. To give the playwright credit there are more scene changes than vase changes. Furthermore, both devices are used to foil that the characters’ grief comes from their inability to change. The lack of change is slowly revealed, but I argue I got most of the substance of the play in the first scene. The remainder was falling action.
If you find yourself in the lobby of Cottlesloe Theatre about to endure the play, make use of the barman and order yourself a double Scotch – at £3/shot it’s the cheapest and most rewarding item I’ve purchased in London.
The acting was excellent. I did not once doubt that the characters were obliviously and pitifully trapped in their pathos. My issue is that I didn’t care that they suffered. It could be that without the somatic therapy of television most of our lives would feel as miserable as those of Dorothy, Edwin, and Victoria. Hence I’m unable to drum up either empathy or sympathy. (Thank you DirecTV)
GRIEF is art. Art coherently focused on Bourgeoisie “suffering” for a contemporary audience. It is not entertainment. Be forewarned. It may turn out to be a very good script for English majors to write term papers about, but it is by no means a play to take a date. The monotony is too much to bear.
Upon reflection I may be as hapless as Dorothy and Edwin in that I did not take any action to correct my plight.
Spoiler Alert! I hold out hope, despite Erin’s protestations, that Edwin is the father of Victoria’s newborn child.