“The older you get the more you realise: you don’t grow up. Not really. You just get older.”
Luke Norris is perhaps better known as an actor from plays like Remembrance Day, The Kitchen and The Gods Weep (oh, how they wept) but he has now turned his hand to playwriting as part of the Royal Court’s writing scheme. And with some success, as his first play Goodbye to All That is part of the Young Writers’ Festival there and is playing in the upstairs theatre alongside a programme of readings of other plays by budding playwrights.
It is then perhaps ironic that the play focuses on older people. David, who has just got his A-level results and is heading off to Leicester, discovers that his grandfather Frank is having an affair and demands that he breaks it off. The relationship is closer than usual as David was raised by his grandparents but we come to see that this 46 year-long marriage has not been a happy one and Frank has actually fallen in love for the first time with Rita. The scene is then seemingly set for an exploration of whether it is “ever too late to start again”.
Roger Sloman’s Frank captures the flush of new love and endless opportunity extremely well and he has a gorgeous chemistry with Linda Marlowe’s beautifully empathetic Rita, this is a relationship we root for. Matters are helped by the tight shrewishness of Susan Brown’s Iris, but then the play hooks a sharp turn into another direction as Frank suffers a debilitating stroke and subsequently it lost much of what made it interesting to me.
The resulting tug-of-war over Frank’s care has less to commend it than the exploration of love and duty and perhaps loving duty, and indeed the impact of passion on people of all ages where the potential seems so rich. And the attempts to enigmatically fill in the back-story around Alexander’s mother fail to come to effective fruition – Norris’ inexperience betraying itself a little here though promise is most definitely shown. So even though the production is expertly designed by Tom Piper and niftily directed by Simon Godwin the overall impact of the play was one of slight disappointment for me, especially considering the calibre of the acting.