Writer and Director: Vicki Baron
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
One of the recurring themes of this year’s Vault Festival seems to be about how we deal with the death of a parent. Creating new rituals in their wake, The Dead Show and Be Prepared focussed on the death of a father, while Sparks and Words, Words, Words reflected on the sense of guilt felt after a death of a mother. Ok, Bye is also concerned with a mother’s death, but its moving account is muddled by unnecessary sideshows.
RedBellyBlack Theatre Company proclaim that their style is like ‘theatrical tapas’, but at least when you are sat down in a Spanish restaurant the food served will all be of a certain kind – the small dishes should all taste Spanish. Here, in Ok, Bye, its disparate styles of dance, drama, and lip-syncing don’t quite gel. It’s like pouring custard all over your chorizo.
This is a shame as the performers in this show are all very talented, but Vicki Baron’s play is a little bit of a dog’s dinner. The main thrust of Ok, Bye concerns the relationship of three siblings, April, Peter and Ollie, as they meet up to bury their mother. Jealousies and old rivalries simmer to the surface, and, initially, it promises to be an affecting examination of grief. In some joyous set-pieces, the three engage in some neat physical theatre to demonstrate their family dynamics. This movement sounds great, too, as they clank mugs and rattle cutlery in time with Andrew Armfield’s live guitar music.
But jarring with this narrative are comic interludes when the cast lip-sync to conversations they have recorded with their friends and family. These dialogues may be amusing, but they have little relevance to the rest of the show. However, they certainly showcase the cast’s comedic skills. Sam Cornforth is excellent here as he channels the voice of a woman talking about the loss of a homing pigeon, while Kate Goodfellow and Oscar Scott-White are very good acting out a conversation between two elderly women about their move to sheltered accommodation. While these two skits may (just about) echo the bereavement in the main narrative of the play, a couple’s conversation about a series of visits to Weight Watchers seems misplaced.
Ok, Bye is only an hour long, but eventually, even the main plot about the siblings seems underpowered and underwritten. It is fortunate, then, that the three actors are a joy to watch especially Cornforth who really shines here as Peter with some sharp comic timing, while Goodfellow ably takes on the role of the sensible eldest child, who harbours resentment that her perfect life has been turned upside down. In comparison, Scott-White underacts a little, bringing some endearing fragility to the youngest sibling, Ollie.
Ultimately, Ok Bye is like one of those meals that you enjoy as you’re eating it, but, come the end of the week, you’d be hard-pressed to remember it. But this young company has potential, and it’ll be worth looking out for what they cook up next. They may become Masterchefs.
Runs until 11 March 2018 | Image: Robert Boulton