Review: Hello and Goodbye, York Theatre Royal

Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard is directed by John R Wilkinson and stars Emilio Iannucci as Johnnie and Jo Mousley as Hester. Picture by Jane Hobson.
Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard is directed by John R Wilkinson and stars Emilio Iannucci as Johnnie and Jo Mousley as Hester. Picture by Jane Hobson.
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Athol Fugard’s Hello and Goodbye was made to be performed in a studio space - the intimate surrounds heightening the claustrophobic atmosphere as two siblings try to make sense of their lives in the living room of their family home.

Directed by John R. Wilkinson, it marks the return of in-house productions to York Theatre Royal’s studio space and the artistic associate sets a high bar for all future shows.

While South African born Fugard is better known for his political work, here he shines a spotlight on one dysfunctional family piecing together their broken past.

Johnnie has been caring for his father for years when his sister Hester visits unexpectedly. She says she’s come to find the compensation money their dad was paid when his lost his leg in an accident. She wants her share of the cash, but it quickly becomes clear that no amount of money will salve her soul.

What she needs is to unload some heavy emotional baggage. It has been accrued through childhood regrets, failed dreams and years working as a prostitute and it is beautifully symbolised by the boxes and trunks which pile up on the stage during her fruitless search for the windfall.

Jo Mousley’s Hester runs the extremes from violent force of nature to childish vulnerability, while Emilio Iannucci brings complexity to the apparently simple Johnnie and they complement and contrast each other perfectly.

On stage throughout the entire two hours, these are demanding roles, but neither miss a beat and their South African accents are flawless throughout.

There’s not much optimism in Hello and Goodbye, but Wilkinson does manage to find some lighter moments amidst the bleakness and if this production is anything to go by, the most cheering thing of all is the return of high quality, in-house work to this special space.

To November 30.