The Royal Court Theatre Presents
Goodbye to All That
by Luke Norris
23 February - 17 March 2012
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Tickets: £20. Mondays all seats £10.
‘I want you to remember something, David: if you remember only one thing I’ve ever told you, remember this every day – morning, noon and night – you do what you want with your life. Exactly what you want. Break heads if you need to and hearts if you have to, but whatever you do don’t do what I did. Don’t waste yourself.’
Frank has been married for forty years. Three years ago he fell in love.
This taut and tender new play asks if it’s ever too late to start again?
Luke Norris is an actor, appearing at the Royal Court earlier this year in Aleksey Scherbak’s Remembrance Day. He attended Royal Court playwriting groups, before entering the Young Writers Festival. This is his first play.
Simon Godwin will direct. Recently appointed full-time Associate Director at the Royal Court, his credits here include The Acid Test by Anya Reiss and Wanderlust by Nick Payne. His other credits include Faith Healer and Far Away at Bristol Old Vic, The Winter’s Tale for Headlong and the Nuffield Theatre Southampton, Mister Heracles at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. As Associate Director of the Royal and Derngate Theatres in Northampton under Artistic Director Rupert Goold, Simon directed seven main stage shows.
Running time 1hr 10mins approx, no interval.
Playtext available from our bookshop (UK postage only)
Goodbye to All That is part of Young Writers Festival 2012. The Young Writers Festival is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and is in partnership with the European Commission Representation in the UK, with additional support from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.
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Select a Date
Dates in February
|Thu 23 Feb 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 24 Feb 2012||7:45pm||Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||Pay What You Like|
|Sat 25 Feb 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 27 Feb 2012||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Tue 28 Feb 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 29 Feb 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Dates in March
|Thu 1 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 1 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 2 Mar 2012||8:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 3 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 3 Mar 2012||8:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 5 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 6 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 7 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 8 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 8 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 9 Mar 2012||8:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 10 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 10 Mar 2012||8:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 12 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 13 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 14 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 15 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 15 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 16 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 17 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 17 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
Mondays all seats £10 (available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.)
Under 26s £8 (excluding Mondays)
Concessions £5 off (available in advance for all performances until 3 March inclusive and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ 50% off (available Tuesday–Friday)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
Pay-What-You-Like Friday 24 February (available on the day of perf from 10am)
4 stars The Guardian by Michael Billington, 2 March 2012
One thing intrigues me about this fine play, presented as part of the Young Writers festival: how come its 26-year-old author, Luke Norris, knows so much about senior citizens? Through, I presume, a mixture of observation and his actor’s intuition, Norris has come up with a fascinating 75-minute play about the differing possibilities of love.
Like David Eldridge’s In Basildon, Norris’s play is set in Essex and deals with family tensions. This time, however, the crisis arises when 18-year-old David discovers that his 69-year-old grandad, Frank, is having an affair. Threatened with exposure, Frank reveals to Iris, his wife of 45 years, that he plans to leave her for the widowed Rita. But when Frank has a stroke that puts him in intensive care, the two women are left to battle over his sadly disabled body.
Details of the backstory, involving David’s upbringing by his grandparents, are somewhat vague, and I couldn’t quite believe the scene where Rita stoically accepts the puritanical young man’s insults. But what Norris writes about, with rare perception, is not just the right of old folk to an emotional life, but also the fact that love can take contradictory forms: it can, as with Frank, spring from a sudden surge of feeling or, as with Iris, derive from the habitual nature of married life.
Directed with deft economy by Simon Godwin in the Theatre Upstairs, Norris’s play is beautifully acted. The sight of Susan Brown as the proprietorial working-class wife and Linda Marlowe as the more restrained, middle-class mistress staking their claims to Roger Sloman’s once-vigorous Frank is deeply moving. And, even if the grandson remains a more enigmatic figure, Alexander Cobb lends him the self-righteous certainty of youth. “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first call promising,” said Cyril Connolly, but I genuinely hope for more from Norris. 4 stars The Independent By Paul Taylor, 28 February 2012
Talk about a striking case of “Snap!”. To be seen at the Royal Court now – on both the mainstage and in the Theatre Upstairs – is the spectacle of a helpless ageing man in a bed, hooked up to things like saline drips and catheters, and flanked by two women who are warring because of him.
David Eldridge’s excellent In Basildon, recently reviewed here, is the downstairs attraction. Now, as the remarkably talented opening shot of this year’s “Young Writers’ Festival” up in the studio space, we have Luke Norris’s Goodbye to All That, a fiercely funny and astutely upsetting piece which Simon Godwin’s beautifully acted and brilliantly paced production does proud.
We’re even in Essex in both plays. But rather than constituting a clash, these (presumably consciously paired) dramas prove to be complementary in richly satisfying ways. In the Eldridge, the women are sisters long-estranged on account of money and inherited property.
In the Norris, the dowdy Iris (whose mix of grimly determined possessiveness and bleak defeatism are superlatively conveyed by Susan Brown) is rushed into a hostile intimacy with the smarter, more well-heeled widow Rita (whose vulnerability is touchingly evoked by Linda Marlowe). Septuaginarian Frank (Roger Sloman) has decided to leave Iris, his wife of forty five years, for the latter. But on the night he is about to make the momentous move, he has a massive stroke, at first mistaken for drunkenness. Which of these women has the greater right to look after this incapacitated husk? It’s a question complicated by the fact that Rita’s wealth could pay for the private care home he needs.
The early scenes pitch you in what is precipitated when David (Alexander Cobb) the old couple’s sulky, reproving and almost-undergraduate grandson (the progeny of a daughter who committed suicide) finds out about the affair. They are fuelled by bitterly amusing dialogue that has a pinch of Pinter in its aggressive proddings and repetitions and a real ear for the way the existentially profound pokes through people’s verbal gropings. When Frank tells Rita he doesn’t love her, Rita puffs and gapes with scorn at the irrelevance (to her now) of the word “love”. “We’ve got a life – we’ve given – there’s people exist because of us”. Or did once. And Norris is equally good at pointed plot development. Nat King Cole’s song is “Illusion” is first heard as romantic dance music; the second time as cruel irony.
A terrific debut.
4 stars The Times By Dominic Maxwell, 28 February 2012
This is not what you expect from the opening play of the Royal Court’s latest Young Writers Festival. Luke Norris has acted in plays here before, but for his professional playwriting debut his subject is a 69-year-old Essex man who has to choose between his wife of 45 years and his mistress. More than that, it’s about ties that bind past passion and into illness and incapacity. It has a few rough edges. But this is a lively, surprising and emotionally acute first play given a typically lucid production by Simon Godwin.
The tone at first is gabby, almost glib. Eighteen-year-old David (Alexander Cobb) has rumbled his grandfather Frank’s (Roger Sloman) affair with wealthy widower Rita (Linda Marlowe). He orders Frank to leave her. Instead, Frank goes home to leave his wife Iris (Susan Brown), who responds doughtily to his claim that he will no longer settle for second best: “Hard luck; you’re too old for anything else.”
Over these 75 minutes, Norris keeps packing in just that bit more than you expect. “You don’t grow up, you just get older, and it’s petrifying,” Frank tells David. Do what you want in life, he tells him, don’t make the same mistakes he made. But Frank’s freedom is fleeting. He has a stroke that leaves him paralysed. Which only ushers in a fresh phase of territorial dispute.
When they’re not performing on the red carpet centre-stage, the actors sit on the furniture of Iris’s flat at the side. Tom Piper’s set includes a sloped ceiling to underline the sense of confinement. Sloman is superb, first fulminating then capturing the watchful immobility of a stroke victim: the lights are all on, but nobody can open the door. The excellent Brown gives Iris a dignity and pugnacity that surprises even her. Norris nails the exchanges of power between carers and patients; Iris infantilises her husband in her attempt to look after him and keep him her own; Marlowe’s elegant but sturdy Rita accepts Iris’s ire but not her mean streak. Cobb’s David goes from brittle anger to acceptance, but Norris dares to show us people acting badly but recognisably, forgiveably.
There’s the odd stiff moment, and there are enough digs at the quality of Frank’s NHS care to sound too much like a point is being made. But the central irony of the desire to be free versus the need for love and care is rooted to richly realised, damaged lives. Bravo.
4 stars Financial Times By Sarah Hemming, 29 February 2012
Here’s a lovely irony. Luke Norris’s Goodbye to All That is his debut play and opens this year’s Young Writers Festival at the Royal Court (which includes playwrights as young as eight). Norris, 26, tells a love story – no surprise there, perhaps – but chooses not to detail the pain of young love. Instead he focuses on the seismic impact of falling in love as a pensioner. There is a teenager in his drama – David, 18 – but his role becomes almost parental, as he lectures his grandfather about his behaviour.
It’s a funny and sometimes shockingly honest play. But Norris also demonstrates a great deal of affection and sympathy for his characters. The canvas is small – a working-class couple in Essex; the living room; the golf club lounge – but the emotions run deep. Tightly structured and written with a sharp ear for dialogue (Norris is also an actor), the play draws you into this particular family nightmare.
As the play opens, David has discovered that Frank, his 69-year-old grandfather, is having an affair. There’s a confrontation: David insists that his grandfather leave his lover, Rita, but instead Frank determines to walk out on his 45-year marriage. Some of these scenes are painfully truthful and delivered with believable mixed feelings in Simon Godwin’s taut production. Alexander Cobb as David subtly blends his genuine concern for his grandparents, his personal panic at the prospect of them splitting up, and the arrogant self-righteousness of youth. Roger Sloman’s Frank, bristling with energy and anger, attracts sympathy for his regret at a life half-lived, but also demonstrates the selfish streak in love. And Susan Brown is quite wonderful as Frank’s wife Iris, her brusque reaction – “It’s silly, it’s stupid” – conveying her shock. The least credible character is Rita, though Linda Marlowe invests her with warmth and common sense.
Should Frank leave? Would he be happy? These questions are left hanging in the air when he falls seriously ill and loses the ability to choose. What happens next allows Norris to explore in more intricacy the claims the women have on Frank and to question the nature of love. It also enables him to touch on the standards of care for the elderly.
This last issue, though important, feels crowbarred in and several things don’t ring true or are awkwardly engineered: the absence of David’s mother, for example. But this is still a promising, touching and tough first play. 4 stars The Telegraph, 1 March 2012
It’s over. After 45 years of marriage, and in the run-up to his 70th birthday, Frank has reached crunch point. Angrily prompted by his teenage grandson David, who has rumbled him, he tells his wife Iris he has been carrying on behind her back with Rita, the wife of a long-dead regular at the Romford golf club he goes to. He wants out.
Aside maybe from those disappointed that this isn’t a staging of the Robert Graves memoir, actor turned playwright Luke Norris’s professional debut will speak to anyone who has ever felt they haven’t lived life to the full. Given that we apparently spend 45 minutes a week nursing regrets, that’s pretty much everyone. “Don’t waste yourself,” Frank exhorts David, whom he and Iris raised following the death of their daughter. Easily said, not so easily done.
For the first five scenes, we’re in the presence, unquestionably, of a playwright of major promise. The dialogue is mature, sharp, sometimes caustically funny. A lot of emotion circles in the air then lands, wallop, in a single devastating phrase. In Simon Godwin’s finely judged production – which loses points only for its too-cumbersome naturalistic design – Roger Sloman makes little apology for his character’s selfish belated stab at fulfilment. His Frank, terse, tense, volatile, isn’t sympathetic but he’s recognisable, and fully rounded in his lean objectives. Susan Brown as his other half beautifully registers the subtle mortification of a plain, loyal woman, reacting with disbelief, denial and embittered fierceness.
Barely is the cat out of the bag, though, than Norris pushes the piece in a shocking direction. Frank suffers a debilitating stroke and the remainder of the evening concerns questions about his care-regime and tussles over possession, the two women squaring up to each other as he looks silently, miserably on, utterly degraded. The scenario is undoubtedly poignant and the writing remains taut but however true to life’s arbitrary nasty surprises, the twist means Norris can’t adequately enough explore the starting-point premise.
Linda Marlowe as Rita and Alexander Cobb as David give exquisitely detailed performances early on but the play’s lurch into a long goodbye to its protagonist turn them into agitated bystanders, and they blur at the edges. Am I being too tough on a newcomer? Norris’s talent is not in doubt – it’s just that a play this good only wants a bit more fleshing out somewhere in the middle to be properly outstanding.
The Observer By Susannah Clapp, 4 March 2012
In Goodbye to All That a long-married, golf-playing grandad keeps bunking off from the bunker for a bunk-up. Or so it seems, but it turns out that this is not a dotty sexual escapade, but a love for which the 70-year-old is prepared to turn away from his old life. The play is intriguing for the premise alone, but Norris has made it into a nimble study of long-lasting disappointment and new hope in which blame and compassion are not stacked up in quite the familiar fashion. As the other woman, the finely ambiguous Linda Marlowe has such a sharp way with a scarf and the NHS that you suspect her of feline hard-heartedness; you’d be wrong. As the wife, Susan Brown is fierce and faultless: seized up with angry proprietorialness but not finally dismayed.
Simon Godwin’s production – in which those not in the scene are visible at the side of the stage, putting pressure on the action, – is tight and detailed, and Alexander Cobb and Roger Sloman play grandson and grandfather with the sullen ease of true relatives. There is one plot wobble in Goodbye to All That but it doesn’t destroy the certainty that here is a playwright to celebrate.
4 stars Critic’s Choice
TimeOut By Caroline McGinn, 5 March 2012
It’s goodbye to life as he’s known it for Frank, a 69-year-old granddad who’s spent 40 years or so married to a woman he doesn’t really love. But it’s hello to 26-year-old Luke Norris, whose assured debut play treats the grown-up subjects of love, old age and stoical endurance with compassion and aplomb.
Norris is also an actor and it shows in the eminently playable roles he has written for his first ensemble: Frank; his angry 18-year-old grandson David; and his wife, Iris, are parts with plenty of heart – and with lines the actors can spit across the stage.
This 90-minute four-hander opens with a terrifically punchy scene in which Alexander Cobb’s David turns up at the golf club with his A-level results only to find his grandfather going 18 holes with glamorous widow Rita (Linda Marlowe).
Frank’s late choice between sunset love and dogged duty on the homefront is articulated with dignity and hard-bitten toughness by Roger Sloman. And the excellent Susan Brown, as his despised wife Iris, is frighteningly joyless but plaintively affectionate: qualities which are developed more fully when sudden illness puts Frank back in her power.
No one here has a clear conscience. But Norris’s drama, as well as asserting the vital importance of love at any age, also questions its shabbier impulses: habit, fear, tyranny and duty.
Backstories of tragedy and loss feel a bit heavy-handed given the sad trajectory of the main material, and the domestic trio of David, Iris and Frank are more firmly drawn than Frank’s mistress. But if Norris’s debut lacks the structure, subtlety and psychological assurance to live all four of its lives to the full, it’s nonetheless a very promising first drama in Royal Court’s indispensable Young Writers’ Festival.
Thu 23 Feb, 7:45pm
Sat 25 Feb, 7:45pm
Tue 28 Feb, 7:45pm
Wed 29 Feb, 7:45pm
Thu 1 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 1 Mar, 7:45pm
Fri 2 Mar, 8:30pm
Sat 3 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 3 Mar, 8:30pm
Thu 8 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 10 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 15 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 17 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 23 Feb, 7:45pm
Fri 24 Feb, 7:45pm
Sat 25 Feb, 7:45pm
Mon 27 Feb, 7:00pm
Thu 1 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 8 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 15 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 3 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 10 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 17 Mar, 3:30pm
Tue 6 Mar, 7:45pm
Tue 13 Mar, 7:45pm
See the Dates & Tickets tab for all dates.