Writer and Director: Lucy-Jo Finnighan
There have been many representations of the Grim Reaper in popular culture from the shrouded grey cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come in Dickens to the chess-playing philosopher of The Seventh Seal (and Bill and Ted) as well as a sprightly mini-driving female version in an episode of Murder Most Horrid. Very few, however, pop in for tea with a sweet old lady, which is the subject of Lucy-Jo Finnighan’s 2019 play Over on Grim Street now streaming in a digital version as part of Online @theSpaceUK.
80-year-old Tabitha is eating her breakfast when the Grim Reaper appears at her table. Assured he is not there for her and offered a cup of tea, the pair begin a conversation that encourages them both to consider their choices. As Grim hides from a recent catastrophe, Tabitha’s day is interrupted by a series of phone calls from the people in her life who may not have her best interests at heart.
Reworked for digital presentation, director Finnighan creates a virtual conversation across a kitchen table with actors filmed in different locations but eschewing the side-by-side of video platform boxes and using cuts to show each actor’s point of view. This is cleverly styled using the same patterned tablecloth as well as props passed seemingly across the camera to further create the illusion of proximity.
Running for almost 50-minutes, the format varies with a number of video phone conversations that give Tabitha the chance to interact with other characters who disregard her needs, strengthening her own trajectory as she discovers the confidence to tackle them. And while the cast is considerably younger in years than their characters, there is something incredibly endearing about a group of octogenarians repeatedly FaceTiming one another to gossip and flirt.
Over on Grim Street is surprisingly cosy given its subject matter and while the impact of loneliness and fear of death drives the conversation, Finnighan’s focus is on the smaller interactions that make up everyday conversation. She captures the speech patterns of Yorkshire housewives, as well as their warmth, extremely well, deducing much humour from Tabitha’s welcoming personality, even when conversing with the last being she should want to meet.
There is perhaps too little gallows humour to balance the sweetness, and the scenario, while amusing, doesn’t dig as deep as it could into the rather morose character of the Grim Reaper or quite why he is suddenly in Tabitha’s kitchen of all the places he could escape to. And while the story is concluded as a result of “Grim’s” actions the sudden flurry of drama is a little out of kilter with the slow-burn format of the previous 45-minutes.
Performed by Kit Clark, Tabitha has just the right ease of personality and gentle motherly nature to credibly chat with the Reaper like an old friend. Clark is particular good at vocally implying age and retaining the threads of her (occasionally self-centred) character as she interacts with gossipy friend Doris (Laura Livingstone), son Dave (Will Goodwin) and potential love interest Harry (James Mason), all of whom contribute to the creation of community, while Filippo Del Bo’s Grim strikes a good balance between gloomy representative of death and occasionally frightening figure.
Performed by the York DramaSoc, Over on Grim Street makes an enjoyable transition to the screen, building on Finnighan’s vivid writing to create an intriguing conversation about loneliness and how difficult it can be to see another’s perspective.
Runs here until 31 January 2021