Good Grief tackles the subject of death, a taboo topic that’s not discussed nearly enough within our society. The multi-award-winning theatre company Ugly Bucket have created something unique and extraordinary in this show centred around a dying man, who asks his friends to create a show about death for him.

Sascha Gilmour and Kirsty Barlow’s set consists of tombstones with sharp, straight edges, all containing secret messages written upon them, which are revealed as the performers shine UV torches on them. As the audience takes their seats, the cast is positioned onstage, stroking the tombstones and sinisterly watching us through dark sunglasses, providing an intense presence.

The cast of five are all painted as clowns, and they perform a variety of short snappy scenes which illustrate death in different ways. Some are hilarious, some more moving. As this is clowning, a minimal number of words are uttered by the cast, instead, voiceovers are utilised at points, but the main messages are conveyed through their movements and performance alone. With exaggerated facial expressions and elaborate movements employed, everything the show is trying to say is expertly expressed.

One of the first scenes consists of Antonia Stafford-Taylor portraying a baby within the womb, a depiction of childbirth horrific enough to be classed as a form of contraception. But this is truly an ensemble piece, and there is a great dynamic between the performers which allows everyone their chance to shine. They all provide high-energy performances displaying unbelievable stamina throughout. This show is an incredibly physical one, comparable to a choreographed dance at times, and they manage to bring every emotion to the forefront.

This is some of the best clowning, I have seen – the show is incredibly powerful, completely original, and inventive. The pace of Rachael Smart and Grace Gallagher’s production does become somewhat sluggish toward the end, and some of the scenes could be finessed slightly, for instance, the alien ‘wow’ scene felt very similar to one from Toy Story, and seemed out of place next to the rest of the incredibly innovative scenes. But overall, I was truly blown away.

Duncan Gallagher’s sound design brings the production to life, the marrying of performance, movement, and sound creates some simply stunning moments which take your breath away. Good Grief is an astonishing piece of theatre which provides intellectual nourishment, taking a tough, emotional topic and creating something with the perfect balance of poignancy and hilarity. Good Grief is completely deserving of their show of the week award and Ugly Bucket have clearly established themselves as ones to watch!

Rating: 4 out of 5.


VAULT Festival has been left without a venue for 2024’s festival and beyond
• VAULT Festival have launched a #SaveVAULT campaign
• The campaign aims are to raise £150,000 by 19th March to support the festival’s survival AND to secure a new home for the festival to continue.
• You can help by donating, helping access funding networks, and helping then find a venue.
• You are officially implored to make the most of 2023’s Festival while it lasts!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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