Everyone deals with grief differently, but when Tom returns home with the corpse of his father, denial takes on a whole new meaning. The premise of the story is clever and engaging as are the dramatic devices used in the telling. ‘Tis Unmanly Grief moves the audience to empathise with Tom’s grief but leaves them without a resolution.
I don’t know what to do. How do I fix this?
”Tis Unmanly Grief is written and directed by Tim Crowther. It is the first professionally produced play by Crowther though it follows a number of staged extracts. ‘Tis Unmanly Grief is in its premier season at Theatre N16.
Everyone deals with grief differently, but when Tom returns home with the corpse of his father, denial takes on a whole new meaning. As the body decomposes and Tom retreats further from reality, Katie conceals her recent news of pregnancy and embarks on her first trimester alone. So the answer to Tom’s anguished question at the head of this review is: Sorry Tom, but some things are beyond fixing, one just has to live with it.
The premise of the story is clever and engaging as are the dramatic devices used in the telling. Most folk will be able to relate to the lengths of grief that move Tom although until such grief is experienced, empathy for the bereaved is possible but true knowledge of the process is unfathomable – like childbirth. However the premise has really nowhere to go as Tom is unable to move on to the next stage of grief and the narrative is stuck at the one level.
The buzz of flies is a fundamental element of this production and the first hint that Tom’s father is beyond ‘unwell’. Merely hearing the buzz is enough to evoke the accompanying stench and elicit horror of the situation. There is also a certain amount of disbelief that Tom’s partner Katie is willing to indulge Tom in this way.
The role of Tom is played by Damien Hasson. Hasson delivers a well defined character whose intentions are at all times clear. He is totally believable in his desperation and self-imposed isolation. Katie is played by Natasha Pring who capably brings out the growth in her character.
Aaron Anthony is the final member of the cast and he plays multiple roles that have the function of a Master of Ceremonies, steering the drama from one scene to the next.
The action of the play is set in the home of Tom and Katie and moves from room to room. Set designer Deborah Bowness has chosen to layer the rooms to overlap each other in the black box setting of Theatre N16. It’s an unusual set with graphics on the floor to represent each room. For example the bath that gets used in the play is a picture on the floor. In contrast the bed is hung on the wall with a device that holds the duvet up for the actors to be able to ‘lie’ in bed. It all works, albeit clumsily at times. The best part of the design is the use of the life-sized stick figure drawing of Tom’s father.
‘Tis Unmanly Grief borrows its title from Shakespeare’s observation of excessive grief as an ‘obstinate condolement’. There is a lack of resolution to ‘Tis Unmanly Grief that feels unsatisfactory but which echoes the state of mind of the grieving at this point in the process. The audience leaves in an apt state of discombobulation.