Sunday, July 21

The Good Father – Riverside Studios

What are you doing for sex tonight? When was the last time you felt comfortable singing in front of someone? Who do you belong with, really? The Good Father poses all these questions and leaves plenty of empty space in its performance for you to spend the whole night coming up with your own personal answers. Directed by Mark Fitzgerald and written by Christian O’Reilly, this play is somewhat lacking in theatricality and sitting in the audience you get the sense that it’s only being performed live in front of you because there wasn’t enough budget to turn it into a proper film.

Both actors’ performances are serviceable and occasionally attention-grabbing, but they have a lot of empty space to fill, and it is an intimate enough story that audiences feel more like interlopers than participants. Voyeurism can of course have its pleasures, but this feels less like peering through the rear window at a torrid love affair than it does like being trapped in the backseat of a car while your parents swerve dangerously close to catastrophe. The script has both heart and brains but allocates the two resources very unevenly across its two leads Tim (Tony Doyle) and Jane (Sarah Noll). Both Doyle and Noll have a clear sense of their characters and it is a great frustration of viewing this play that they both clearly would excel in a different format.

The gaping black box that is Riverside Studios’ theatre is sparsely decked with a set that is more distracting than it is enlightening and requires both significant transition time and a decent amount of actor labour to turn over between scenes for very little storytelling pay off. The suggestion of various locations is obvious but not illustrative, and considerably more useful narrative context is given by HK Ní Shioradáin’s various understated soundscapes. Zoë Quinn’s costumes, however, are the design element that carries this production, providing complexity to its settings and depth to its characters. A smaller venue or a more static set might give even them some very necessary breathing room. It is after all a love story, albeit a claustrophobic one, and Ruth Lehane’s intimacy choreography is technically proficient but unfortunately underserved by the broader direction.

Doyle and Noll spend almost the entire 120-minute run time circling each other, but in such a vast void their orbitational attraction comes off more as convenient than it does urgent.

Playing until 24th March, https://riversidestudios.co.uk/see-and-do/the-good-father-104636/

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 15th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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