If Death was knocking at your door, would you let him in? Eighty-year old Tabitha (Kit Clark) doesn’t really have a choice – he’s sitting at her kitchen table. So naturally, the pair converse and learn more about each other, including what brings the black-hooded reaper to the hum-drum pleasantness of Tabitha’s home. In what occasionally feels like a nod to My Dinner With Andre, Over on Grim Street is a simple premise and is very obviously a skeleton work, but what it does offer is rich with meaning and purpose.
Death (Filippo Del Bo), or Grim as he decides he would rather be called, flips between being gentle and empathetic to cruelly honest as Tabitha relays details about her life, some of which affect her to this day. The show, first performed in 2019, makes some adaptations for the online realm. This includes Tabitha’s friends and family popping by over facetime rather than coming by the house in person. Tabitha is somebody who, on first appearances, feels very comfortable living in blissful ignorance of death. But it later becomes clear that dying has profoundly shaped her life and relationships with others. The way she opens up to Grim is the basis for a story, and so much intimate detail is divulged that a lot happens without the story feeling plot-heavy.
The contrast between Tabitha’s Northern gentleness and Grim’s unassuming darkness is the basis for much of the comic relief, which aims not for hearty laughs but light chuckles and smiles. It does so fantastically, the quality of humour far outstripping other shows by virtue of its sheer simplicity. It proves as consistently amusing as it is poignant. It’s message of accepting death and how grief shapes our worlds is handled with admirable sensitivity and realism (minus the angel of death). Del Bo is really great as Grim, his outbursts and admissions meriting the vast majority of the laughs. But Clark is the standout, channeling a character many times her age to convincing, heartfelt effect. She feels in many ways like your average Northern older woman, yet over time it emerges just how individual she is. It is a revelation that Clark captures with nuance and emotion.
Over on Grim Street is ripe with potential to be an even more elaborate, memorable production once theatre is allowed to resume. There is great potential for Grim to take on more of a slapstick element as well, toying even further with Taitha’s elderly mannerisms. But only to an extent, as the show’s grounded humbleness is part of the reason it succeeds. This discussion of family, friendships and opening up as a person is a lesson on how much more comfortable we can be with the idea of death if we invite it in for tea and scones.
Words by James Hanton.
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