Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Good Dad (A Love Story) by Gail Louw | Review

The Good Dad (A Love Story) by Gail Louw | Review

It’s complicated. I realise I’ve made this production sound like a Facebook relationship status, but it seems (to me) to be the best way to describe what went on without giving too much away. I suppose I can get away with saying what I was told by the box office: the show contains descriptions of sexual abuse. Sarah Lawrie switches between playing sisters Donna and Carol, and their mother, Susan – more often than not, a quick change of costume is all that is needed to assume a different character.

The Good Dad (A Love Story) - Credit Anne Koerber.
The Good Dad (A Love Story) – Credit Anne Koerber.

Being of the same family, it’s not always immediately obvious who is speaking. Just as well, then, that people are name-checked repeatedly as the narrative progresses. Aside from a few clothes that hang off clothes pegs, the only other prop is a stool, and even that is barely used. Some good eye contact helped the audience to engage with the story. But it is not so much the critical incident, terrible (and illegal) as it was, that the play focuses on. Rather it is the consequences of what happened, and how it was, over time, that the family ended up in the scarcely believable (but nonetheless plausible) position it is in.

Donna, being fourteen years of age at the time of the critical incident, was questioned by teachers at school, who had noticed some blatantly obvious physical signs that something was very wrong. But who did what they did? Donna wasn’t – for reasons the story makes clear – comfortable blurting out a full account to members of staff (even if, years later, she does so to the audience). Neither does Donna go to the authorities, and so the perpetrator effectively gets away with their crime. Not only that, but Donna is the one who ends up in prison, yelling to prison officers that it’s too hot in her cell, or it’s too cold in her cell, or that she’s bored and needs something to do.

There is a family secret that the women do not want to enter the public sphere. But then they find themselves in the situation they are in through no fault of their own. As I began by saying, it’s complicated. The play does well to resolve an issue often encountered with single-performer shows: that of the single perspective, in which one gets the feeling there are two sides to every coin, but the said coin is never flipped. Lawrie puts in a fluid and assured performance in this rather disturbing yet engaging piece of theatre.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Honour thy mother and thy father. Thou shalt not murder thy father. Nor thy mother.
But definitely not thy father.
The whole family knew he was a good dad. But he wasn’t well, had a weak heart, so they gathered around him to protect him – from everything, because he really was a good dad. And Donna was special; he loved her the most. So why is Donna in prison?

Based on real-life events from the 1980s, The Good Dad (A Love Story) is the latest one-woman play from Gail Louw. Directed by Anthony Shrubsall and performed by Sarah Lawrie this haunting family drama is told from the unique perspectives of mother, daughter and sister.

Cast: Sarah Lawrie Donna/Carol/Susan
Creatives: Producer Alex Pearson
Director Anthony Shrubsall
Lighting and Sound Designer Chuma Emembolu
Stage Manager Alex Pearson

Listings Information
The Good Dad
(A Love Story)
GAIL LOUW
The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL

Tuesday 31st August 2021 – Saturday 11th September 2021
https://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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