Good Grief: Exploring bereavement in Britain

Published: Wednesday 10th May 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Jack Rooke and his nan Sicely bring the acclaimed show Good Grief to Hull Truck Theatre later this week.

The storytelling comedy explores bereavement in Britain through the tale of Jack’s family when his dad passed away in 2008.

A 15-year-old boy at the time, Jack found great comfort and support in his then 80-year-old nan. They decided to share their experience through a series of short films, photos and a theatre show.

“We wanted to embrace the positive elements of grief,” Jack explains. “The fact that people come together and there’s a real sense of community when someone dies. However, we don’t shy away from the details of the difficult stuff.”

Jack also wanted to highlight the important relationship between him and his nan, as they acted as each other’s rocks during this difficult time.

“The show is comedic and funny, yet sad and dark at times. It’s a celebratory exploration of grief,” Jack continues.

Nan Sicely even features in the play itself through several film projections:

“I was originally going to make it into a documentary, but we didn’t have enough money to do this,” Jack recalls.

The theatre show came about after the pair secured Arts Council England funding. Neither of them had written anything before.

“My nan is an ex-dinner lady, a working class grafter, so she’d never done anything like this. But we managed to co-write it together.”

The show is a real family affair, with stories about Jack’s nan, his dad and his mum: “There are quite a lot of jokes about our family in the show,” he adds.

So how did the show go down amongst family members?

“They’re really happy with it,” Jack chuckles. “I mean, at first they were a bit like ‘I don’t know what this thing that Jack’s doing is’, as they’re not theatre-goers, but the photos and films of my dad make it special for them.”

The show is essentially a celebration of Jack’s dad, but the story is relatable to anyone who has experienced a loss in the family.

“Quite often, when someone dies, no one speaks about them in case they upset someone else,” Jack admits.

“With this play, I can still remember funny things about my dad. It’s nice for my family to see.”

Good Grief originally debuted in November 2014. Jack then took it to Edinburgh Fringe the year after: “It did really well there. For the past year we’ve been making the BBC Comedy Radio adaptation for it.”

“It’s going to be nice to finish off the show with this final tour in the north,” Jack declares. “We’re taking it out of London and bringing it to places like Hull, Manchester and Leeds, who I think will be able to relate to elements of the story really well.”

You can catch Good Grief at Hull Truck Theatre on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 May. Tickets start from £12.50 and can be purchased on the Hull Truck website.

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Published: Wednesday 10th May 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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