Ok, Bye is the tale of loss: loss of a parent, loss of freedom, and the loss of a homing pigeon. Co-creators Kate Goodfellow and Vicki Baron have combined a family saga narrative with very real, personal stories and complementary live music.
Structurally, this play is a little bit muddled. The underlying story is simple and heartfelt enough; April, Peter and Ollie are siblings coming to terms with the death of their mother whilst struggling with simmering familial resentments. It’s emotionally engaging right from the start. Neat physical movement centred around strong repeated sequences with almost perfect timing represents their childhoods.
But this story is interrupted several times with voice recordings, real stories of different types of loss, which the cast mimes along to. These are hilarious. The gender swapping adds a fun dimension and Sam Cornforth shines as a women speaking about her limited experiences of loss. He works well with Goodfellow, who sets her mouth perfectly to imitate Billy as he discusses the rollercoaster of emotions from the purchase of a homing pigeon to the decision to set it free.
These moments where the cast shifts character to lip-sync are novel, and the audience responds with quick laughter and real glee. However it does detract from the story. The narrative is still well signposted and we pick it up easily, but the emotional punch is diminished and instead of a blow, it’s a gentle emotional nudge.
Although the concept doesn’t quite fit together, the actors do their best to compensate. Each character is nuanced and possesses unpleasantly recognisable human flaws that create a believable family. There won’t have been an audience member in the house who didn’t cringe with self-recognition or baulk at unbidden memories of their own siblings. I can’t help but feel that Oscar Scott-White was slightly underused as Ollie, although my heart-broke a little at his lip-sync of an old woman forced to move into a nursing home. But it’s Cornforth that gives the most memorable performance, his comic timing was second to none and he gets the biggest laugh of the night during an amusingly dull conversation about a new Waitrose opening.
It’s only an hour long but Ok, Bye could be two plays stitched together. Done separately, both concepts could have been improved and taken to a clearer and more developed place. As it was, both strands had interesting, heartfelt and had dryly-humorous moments – they just didn’t feel like pieces of the same puzzle.
Photo: Robert Boulton