Last Friday, I have the privilege of attending one of the first performances of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People at Hampstead Theatre. Good People is a genuinely moving, incredibly funny piece of theatre which is both tender and tough as nails. The dialogue delivers line after line of quick wit from each of the characters, but is equally shocking at times, and often tough to decide which character to sympathise with most.
The setting of the play is Southie – or South Boston to non-residents – a rough area where people struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis, and the protagonist Margaret or Margie (played by Imelda Staunton) works to support her handicapped daughter.
The narrative is driven by Margie losing her job and attempting to find a new one, quickly, in order to continue supporting her daughter and paying her rent. On her searches, she encounters an old friend who has managed to ‘get lucky,’ escape Southie and the destiny that so many of its residents seem to face. He’s a doctor, successful, and seems to have turned his back on his past. But is he the key to providing Margie with a job?
The drama escalates as the past and current lives of Margie and the suave and sophisticated doctor are examined, and the ‘what ifs?’ of every situation are contemplated.
Imelda Staunton delivers a fantastic performance; she has brilliant comic timing but has the ability to switch in an instant, creating a tense atmosphere that dominates so much of the second half of the play. When it comes down to it, you question what it means to be ‘nice’ and wonder whether hard-work helps to pave the way to success of whether luck and the right opportunities led to better prospects.
Good People is thoroughly recommended and is currently showing at Hampstead Theatre until April 5th.