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Good Grief

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
Death clearly becomes Penelope Keith. Onstage, at least, that is. The 
last time everyone's favourite cut-glass matriarch appeared on the 
Kings Theatre stage she played a vicar's widow in Richard Everett's 
play, Entertaining Angels. This time out, Keith plays the widow of Sam, 
a tabloid newspaper editor in Keith Waterhouse's stage version of his 
comic novel. Keith first played June in 1998, when Good Grief played 
the West End a year after the novel was published. Fourteen years on, 
and three years after his own passing, Waterhouse's play now looks at 
times like he was penning an elegy for himself.

Keith is cast wonderfully against type as June Pepper, a hard-drinking 
northern lass who we first meet at home following Sam's funeral. Having 
promised him that she'd keep a diary of her thoughts following his 
demise, June's scribblings here become upstage asides. These become a 
form of therapy for June as she navigates her way between Pauline, the 
insecure daughter of Sam and his first wife, Sam's sleazy night editor, 
Eric, and The Suit, a gentleman scrounger who June meets in the local 
pub.

Waterhouse was always a better writer than he was a dramatist, and 
Keith delivers June's monologues with a deadly dryness in Tom Littler's 
touring revival for the Theatre Royal, Bath. There are some pithy 
observations on the ageing singleton's lot and how the bereaved can 
cling to memories. Any poignancy relayed over a bundle of rediscovered 
letters, however, is over-ridden by the ending's sudden lurch into 
1970s trousers-down farce. Even with such inconsistencies, to hear 
Keith swear with such common or garden gusto was a refreshingly 
shocking treat.

The Herald, October 4th 2012

ends

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