With new writing I often find that its inherent rawness can provide a distinct combination of challenge and pleasure as to how subsequent interpretations are produced. I spoke to Dave Collins, the director of the musical Good Grief, which is currently being performed at Grey College’s Fountain’s Hall, to glean his views on the translation of new writing onto a different stage.
Successful in its long run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Good Grief presents the gathering of family members at a funeral at which chaos ensues. Dave emphasised that the play’s original long run at the Fringe has been fundamental to the artistic development of the production. “The cast and crew have tried the lines and gags on the audience for a whole month and found out what lines audiences enjoyed and which ones they didn’t.” This audience-based process of development is certainly one approach to new writing, when surely winning over the crowd can be one of the essential tools for creating a successful production. Dave mentioned how the production team used the audience response to re-write certain parts of the musical for which he thanks the “dedication of the composer and writer Stephanie Amies and Lucy Hughes”. Not only the original writers, but the fresh take of a new cast and crew contributed more ideas in what seems to be a distinctly collaborative process, as Dave agrees, “It has not simply been a vision from the production team but all members of the cast and crew have contributed fantastic ideas”. He emphasises that the small and close-knit cast and crew really helped with this.
But why bring Good Grief from the Fringe to Durham? Dave reasons the quick and witty plot and diverse characters, “the music has moments of extreme poignancy as well as times of comedic gold and the show grew on me each time I saw it.” Dave emphasises the theme of dealing with grief, despite comedy at times, is at root of the musical, “All characters are suffering from loss or rejection and Good Grief traces how the characters deal with these emotions.” Marijuana, lesbians and coffins may not be your run-of the-mill day in the faculty, but the element of the bittersweet that Dave highlights, and as the title of the musical implies, is perhaps part and parcel of life.