Grave Concern is a show of great variety – both in its genre and its theatrical quality. The play is essentially about death, and the range of emotions, approaches and perspectives we experience in relation to it. From the very beginning, the show forces us to question what we hold sacred, and the boldness to laugh at the recently deceased pays off with a sense of freshness and originality.
The show carves out a space for morbid humour through explaining what can’t be joked about as much as what can be. Much of the show’s dialogue revolves around the young protagonist’s attempts to educate, and simply put up with his elders’ antiquated approaches to sexuality, race and gender. In a bizarre way, the absolute failure of racist and homophobic humour brings the best out of the show’s abundant graveyard gags. Where one character is reprimanded for laughing at the dead, another is reprimanded for making racist jokes, and the juxtaposition emphasises the disparity between the two types of humour. Because of this, we are encouraged to relax into sniggering at our fleeting existence and the resultant feeling is a paradoxically life-affirming acceptance of our mortality.
Although the cast’s unanimous adoption of a northern-Irish accent inexplicably enhanced the quality of dark humour, the sticklers with an ear for accents may have found certain attempts a cause for discomfort. And, as much as it was tempting to see an instance of obvious corpsing as a nod to the show’s morbid comedy, the failure to remain committed to character throughout is symptomatic of a wider issue of execution. For all the show’s flashes of excellence and moments of engagement, several scenes lacked the clarity of pronunciation and precision in timing to achieve their comic potential. I had the impression that many lines hoped to receive laughter, but actually went unnoticed and without remark. Because of this failure to communicate the desired meaning, the show couldn’t quite attain the tightness and flow of which this cast is clearly capable.
Nevertheless, this new piece of writing by Connor Rowlett redeems its predominantly morbid sense of humour and reminds its audience of the attraction of pessimism. There is much more to this show than an abundance of dark humour. A line of sincerity emerges out of the relentless satire which provides the variety necessary to save the show from falling into boring repetition. Here, Paul Storrs deserves a special mention; his emotional range and commitment to the role serve to bind the cast together. Storrs’ confidence allows the show’s circularity to achieve its emotive impact and leaves the audience with a distinctly wholesome feeling of closure.
Grave Concern is a good show, and I am confident that it will be a great one if it is executed in the way it should be. If you’re a fan of late-night morbidity and enjoy an Irish accent, you’re in for a treat.