There is a saying about opera that ‘it ain’t really over till the fat lady sings’. This is probably because lots of operas end when a well-proportioned lady sings her final aria then dies, bringing the curtain down with her. This expression has made its way into normal language, a fact exploited by the RedBellyBlack Theatre Company in their production OK, Bye which I saw at the Vault Festival.
This is the story of three siblings – April (Kate Goodfellow) the eldest, Peter (Sam Cornforth) an advertising executive and baby of the family Oliver (Oscar Scott-White) a successful freelance nature photographer – who have come together for the funeral of their mother. It’s the first time the three have been together for a while as the boys are very busy with their professional lives and only got home to visit April and their mother on odd occasions. As always happens when families are thrown together at a time like this, emotions come to the fore and, when alcohol is added to the mix, old grievances are aired and feuds remembered as everyone comes to terms with the loss of their mother.
OK, Bye is an impressive mixture of play, interpretive dance – live music supplied by composer Andrew Armfield – and recorded interviews performed with some of the best lip synching I have ever seen on a stage. The three main actors could be a family in the way their interact with each other. In some ways, OK, Bye is quite a brave show to put on. Not only because of the subject matter, but audiences aren’t always that keen on mixing theatrical styles in the way this production does. In fact Vicki Baron (who wrote and directed the show) and Movement Director Kate Goodfellow have created a spell-binding production that is full of surprises, laughs and even the odd highly charged emotional moment over its sixty minute run time.
One of my favourite moments was at the wake after the funeral, where the three siblings have to greet every mourner. Just as in real life, at a funeral, the movements become almost automatic. And as the brothers and their sister shake hands, hug and receive the same platitudes and words of comfort from each mourner, it becomes a perfectly choreographed surreal dance executed by the three of them.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed OK, Bye. It obviously took a lot of work to get from Vicki and Kate’s original idea to the finished product I saw, but that has definitely been time well spent. Excellent casting and direction combined with the fascinating movement and other elements to produce a really superb performance that was not only extremely entertaining, but left me feeling horribly guilty that I’m not going to be able to pop home and see my own mum this Mother’s Day.
Review by Terry Eastham
Whether you are saying goodbye to a person, an addiction or a place, everything you part ways with is concluded by the final farewell ‘OK, Bye’. Using their signature combination of physical theatre and dynamic storytelling, RedBellyBlack explores the very simple premise that saying ‘OK, Bye’ can mean thousands of different things: ‘I love you’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘I never want to see your stupid face again’ or even just the end of a phone call. Using live music, lip syncing and movement, this production showcases raw, real-life stories from the general public.
Performance Dates Wednesday 7th – Sunday 11th March 2018
Running time 60 minutes
Twitter @Red_Belly_Black, #okbyeshow
Director/Co-Creator Vicki Baron
Movement Director/Co-Creator Kate Goodfellow
Producer Sally Collett
Set Design Jessica Sinclair Martin
Lighting and Sound Design Abi Toghill
Music written and performed live by Andrew Armfield
Location VAULT Festival, The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN