Jack Rooke’s Good Grief ‘hilarious and endearing comedy’ with serious message at New Wolsey Theatre

Jack Rooke's Good Grief - part of the Pulse Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre. Picture: SUPPLIED BY

Jack Rooke's Good Grief - part of the Pulse Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre. Picture: SUPPLIED BY NEW WOLSEY THEATRE - Credit: Archant

If free custard creams don’t win you over, then Jack Rooke’s honesty, optimism and wit will.

Nearly every seat of the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich was filled for the late-night showing of critically acclaimed Good Grief on Wednesday as part of the Pulse Festival 2017.

With a coffin full of “bereavement snacks” on stage, Jack starts off with some not-so-shocking statistics: “Every one in one person will die”.

Now in his early 20s, Jack was 15 when he lost his dad suddenly to cancer. The show sets out how he and his family dealt with this, but also how the wider community reacted.

Neighbours leaving copious dishes of lasagne on his doorstep; conductors letting him off his train fare; dinner ladies serving him up extra food at school; teachers giving him a free pass to leave class if he feels sad – all kind gestures, but perhaps ways to avoid talking about an uncomfortable subject?

It was a thought-provoking analysis of social behaviour, but also a hilarious and endearing comedy.

Whenever he could, Jack tried to get the audience involved; not in a scary, intimidating way, but in a way that said ‘we are all in this together’, with plates of comfort food passed around at emotional moments and a collective reading of Grieving for Dummies.

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The star of the show was undoubtedly Jack’s straight-talking nan Sicely, who appears on film and talks about the taboo we as a society have attached to death, which had made her husband silent over their son’s loss.

Jack reflects: “Because we don’t talk about death or grieving there’s an awful lot of people who end up feeling alone.”

This, in my opinion, was the take home message – bereavement is painful but by speaking more openly about it we can break down the stigma, find happiness after tragedy and in turn learn to accept our own inevitable fate.

No doubt a difficult show for Jack to tour, admitting that eight years after his dad’s death and he is still figuring out how to cope, but it is one that tackles an important topic with sensitivity and charm.