Jack Rooke’s debut solo show is a small gem: bittersweet, funny, and moving, while also managing to be unflinchingly honest about the one area of life – that is, death – that we find so hard to talk about.
Based around the death of his father when Rooke was just a teenager, the piece casts a wry eye over the rituals around mourning: the onslaught of lasagne from neighbours keen to cook for you, but not to speak to you; the conflicting emotions of a grieving boy caught in the turmoil of his teens while also selfishly finding the upside of bereavement (it gets you out of PE, for one thing).
When he’s not busy handing around the biscuits and the malted loaf – since it’s not a funeral without food, after all – his monologue is intercut with family photos, video footage and audio recordings from his mum, his nan, and even the occasional Spice Girl (Rooke has an affinity for the small rituals of British life and culture – and finding the humour in these tiny details – that is on a par with Victoria Wood or Alan Bennett). His nan Cicely steals every scene she is in, talking matter-of-factly about her own very personal experience of loss, while somehow managing to be such a typical grandma that she feels like the perfect Everynan – it’s impossible not to love her.
Rooke is not afraid of skewering himself and his own, occasionally self-dramatising behaviour – there’s an awareness he is, after all, turning family tragedy into a comedy show – but it’s all done with such likeability and self-deprecation the effect is utterly winning.
Good Grief was performed as part of the Brighton Fringe. Click here for more details.