Even grief has a lighter side

3:49pm Thursday 27th September 2012

By Bruno Clements

Penelope Keith is at the centre of the emotional storm in Good Grief, a new adaptation of Keith Waterhouse’s comic novel which premiered in the Theatre Royal, Bath, on Tuesday and continues until Saturday night.

Her character, June, is struggling to come to terms with the death of Fleet Street editor husband Sam Pepper, a man credited with a 60 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky a day habit.

She follows his advice to keep a diary which, in the form of an occasional monologue, she addresses to him as her life coping with widowhood unfolds.

June quickly runs into The Suit (Christopher Ravenscroft), a man she takes too because he’s bought one of Sam’s old suits from Oxfam.

As June, Keith has a convincing enough presence - and Northern accent - to distance herself in the audience’s mind from those famous TV roles.

And while her voice was a little quiet at the start, as the comic and dramatic temperatures rose she settled into the role and provided a gripping performance after the interval.

June’s relationship with The Suit provides most of the lighter moments while a sub-plot revolving around Sam’s daughter from his first marriage, played by Flora Montgomery, and the weasley former colleague Eric (Jonathan Firth) sheds light on part of Sam’s character June has never had to deal with before.

This eventually twists and turns into a key part of the drama, which revolves around the Peppers’ house and a nearby pub.

There are enough surprises and laughs in the play to keep the audience on board and no doubt the scene-setting first half will gain some pace in future performances.


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