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The Good Father at Riverside Studios | Review

This play has been around for a little while, first staged at the Druid Theatre in Galway, Ireland, in 2002. Some of the viewpoints and opinions appear rather more dated than that, however. The basic premise is that Tim (Tony Doyle) and Jane (Sarah Noll) have a one-night stand, without protection, with the consequence that comes with a one-night stand without protection. Tim is a working-class Irish lad, Jane is a middle-class British woman. Had this been a Brian Friel play instead of a Christian O’Reilly one, it might well have been set in 1902 instead (or even earlier) and had the local Irish community vehemently protest at Tim having anything to do with a coloniser, let alone having an illegitimate child with her.

The Good Father at Riverside Studios
The Good Father at Riverside Studios

The complete absence of mobile telephony and social media was a significant giveaway that this wasn’t exactly a contemporary play, and there was something rather retro – and refreshing – as I watched a show whose storyline progressed in forward chronological order, without the baffling time-hopping that goes on nowadays. Some of the scenes are long, with drawn-out dialogues: this is not a show that could be adapted for television without substantial changes to the script. It demands the audience’s attention, though the audience is not always on the receiving end of literary gold – Tim and Jane have not known each other for long, and yet by the second scene she is already finishing off his sentences for him.

It wasn’t that long ago that people met as Tim and Jane did, in a manner that is almost alien to many now – they would agree on a meeting place and time, in advance, and if one arrived before the other, there would be a waiting period. The waiting, watching through present-day lenses, is far from riveting to watch on stage, but it’s a little nostalgic for anyone old enough to remember it, and presumably baffling for anyone who isn’t. They must have been wondering why on earth Tim is just sat there, not doing anything at all, however momentarily.

It’s a bit of a slow burner, and the long scene changes, well covered as they were by incidental music, didn’t help. As both parties in what becomes a relationship want to (quite rightly, mind you) maintain civility and decorum, it’s a long time before anything that could be reasonably considered dramatic tension comes along. A bit too long, if I’m brutally honest, even if there is something very telling in Jane correcting Tim’s enunciation. His Irish lilt, for the record, was a delight to listen to.

A late plot twist was rather predictable – the clues leading up to it weren’t exactly subtle. Earlier, Jane talks of choice with regards to her pregnancy, and Tim does not protest, which is something of a departure from traditional Irish Catholic beliefs on the matter. Tim, by his own admission, talks a lot, and this is, in part, because the play wants to present the man’s perspective on becoming a father for the first time. In this regard, at least, the play stands out from the more usual emphasis on a pregnant woman’s emotions and experiences.

If the on-stage chemistry is varied, this comes across as deliberate, and naturalistic: very few people in relationships are on cloud nine every single day. A romantic comedy which, at the performance I attended, elicited some genuine laughter, the play is one of many out there that demonstrate how untruths told in order to impress or make someone else feel better can end up causing more pain and heartache than the cold-blooded truth would have done in the first place. A thoughtful and convincing production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s New Year’s Eve and most of the party guests are in the kitchen admiring photos of their babies. But two lonely strangers find themselves cut off from the rest. Jane was invited because she knows the people in the kitchen. Tim was invited because he painted the kitchen. Jane drunkenly asks Tim, “What are you doing for sex tonight?” And a few weeks later she calls him with some unexpected news: she’s pregnant…

Winner of the Stewart Parker Award, Christian O’Reilly’s heartfelt, moving drama charts Tim and Jane’s journey of love, loss, and redemption.

CAST: Tony Doyle, Sarah Noll
Directed by Mark Fitzgerald
Sound Design by HK Ní Shioradáin
Costume Design by Zoë Quinn
Set Design by Eugenia Genunchi
Lighting Design by John Gunning
Intimacy Director – Ruth Lehane

THE GOOD FATHER
FRIDAY 15 – SUNDAY 24 MARCH 2024
https://riversidestudios.co.uk/

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