Previewed 10 April 2014, Opened 15 April 2014, Closed 14 June 2014 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London
David Lindsay-Abaire's new dark comic play Good People in London starring Imelda Staunton and Lloyd Owen.
When sharp-tongued single-mother Margie loses her job she'll do anything it takes to pay the bills. Hearing that an old boyfriend who has made good is in town, she decides to corner him with stunning consequences. Good People is a funny, tender and provocative drama that explores how even if you live on the brink, destiny always has a way of surprising you.
This production of Good People comes into London's West End following an acclaimed season earlier this year at the Hampstead Theatre in North London. The cast features Imelda Staunton and Lloyd Owen who are both reprising their roles from the Hampstead Theatre. It is directed by Jonathan Kent with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothuis.
When this production opened in the West End Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard praised "David Lindsay-Abaire's sharp, bitterly funny examination of class and social mobility in America," adding that "the show was a recent sell-out hit at the high-flying Hampstead Theatre and now takes up a deserved slot in the West End" in "Jonathan Kent's zinging production." Neil Norman in the Daily Express explained being "abrasive, dark and viciously funny it is illustrative of the excellent health currently enjoyed by American social drama." When this same prduction ws originally seen at the Hampstead Theatre, Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "this new piece is tough, genuinely funny and often deeply moving... the dialogue has a crackling energy and the dramatist's beady observation of the class divide constantly rings true... Jonathan Kent has come up with a taut, superbly acted production, deftly designed by Hildegard Bechtler." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that "Lindsay-Abaire has, however, written a cracking lead role which Staunton fills to perfection." Dominic Maxwell in the Times thought that "Imelda Staunton adds to her list of brilliant performances in Good People... it's a detailed yet propulsive performance that weaves brashness with heartbreak in a breath," adding that it was "a smart, painful social comedy with a head and a heart." In the Financial Times Ian Shuttleworth described how "this is Staunton's show from beginning to end. A class act in every sense." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "Imelda Staunton is on sensational form in this smart play by David Lindsay-Abaire... Staunton delivers a performance of earthy humanity, suffused with wit and sensitivity," going on to explain that "after a first half that's quietly entertaining, the second half is blisteringly funny" while "Jonathan Kent's crisp production ensures that the action clips along appealingly." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that "the acting is uniformly strong."
David Lindsay-Abaire's London theatre credits include Rabbit Hole (Vaudeville Theatre 2014) and writing the book and lyrics for Shrek the Musical (Drury Lane Theatre 2011). Imelda Staunton's West End stage credits include Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (Adelphi Theatre 2012), Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane (Trafalgar Studios 2009), Michael Hastings' Calico (Duke of York's Theatre 2004) and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (Phoenix Theatre 1990). Jonathan Kent's West End directing credits include Noel Coward's Private Lives starring Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor (Gielgud Theatre 2013), Edward Bond's The Sea starring starring Eileen Atkins and David Haig (Haymarket Theatre 2008), the musical Marguerite written by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Michel Legrand and Herbert Kretzmer starring Ruthie Henshall in the title role (Haymarket Theatre 2008), William Wycherley's The Country Wife starring David Haig, Patricia Hodge and Toby Stephens (Haymarket Theatre 2007) and Luigi Pirandello's As You Desire Me starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Bob Hoskins (Playhouse Theatre 2005).
"What makes the piece so satisfying is that it requires the audience to make almost continual reappraisals of the goodness that is supposedly in its protagonists: at one moment it is Mike who elicits our sympathies, then it is Margie. Jonathan Kent's assured and stylish production gives Imelda Staunton and Lloyd Owen a chance to shine, but the supporting characters are on strong form, too. The dialogue between Margie and the women that she hangs out with - her brassy, bossy pal Jean (Lorraine Ashbourne) and her wonderfully eccentric landlady Dottie (June Watson) - is as quick and sassy as an old episode of Rhoda. The goodness in them is also something of a moveable feast. Even Stevie - Margie's line manager who is played by Matthew Barker - turns out to have his redeeming features after he has to sack her in the show's opening moments... This is a well presented, intelligent and adroitly played piece. And it usefully nails the lie, by the way, that there is no such thing as snobbery in American society. They are every bit as bad at it - if not a whole lot worse - than we are." The Sunday Telegraph
"Desperate for work, [Margie] muscles her way in to the office of Mike Dillon, a schoolmate she had dated before he went off to college and became a successful fertility doctor. By reminding him of the place and the people he left behind when he moved into more comfortable parts, this tenacious, terrier-like toughie forces him to invite her to his party. When Margie arrives at his luxury home in a smart suburb, she is mistaken for the catering staff by his beautiful, classy wife, a literature prof. Fired with resentment, Margie pulls some of Mikey's better-hidden skeletons crashing out of the closet, adding to the evident tension between the two. The shifts in power are beautifully handled: one second Margie has Mikey's future in her hands, the next, her kindness gets the better of her, because she's the really good person round here. As the final, brilliant twist proves... Jonathan Kent's production draws delicately detailed performances from a fine cast and reveals this play as a devastating exposé of life as a lottery, as random as a game of bingo. Nothing to do with being good; all about being lucky." The Mail on Sunday
"David Lindsay-Abaire's study of Margaret, a single mother living in a Boston slum, and Mike, her former boyfriend now a successful doctor, who may be the father of her disabled daughter. While plays about the British class system are a Hampstead staple, plays about the American class system remain a rarity. There, however, the interest ends. Good People is a hodgepodge of dramatic contrivances, social stereotypes and stilted confrontations. Moreover, its dialogue is pitched midway between a Roseanne-style sitcom and a made-for-TV movie... Jonathan Kent directs an accomplished cast on Hildegard Bechtler's versatile set. The mystery is that Good People won the 2011 New York Drama Critics Circle Award, going on to become the most performed play in America the following year." The Express on Sunday
Good People in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 10 April 2014, opened on 15 April 2014 and closed on 14 June 2014.