RedBellyBlack’s OK, BYE is a sweet but overambitious whistle-stop tour of goodbyes and moving on at this year’s VAULT Festival.
Even if it’s for the best, saying goodbye is never as simple as it seems – and co-creators Vicky Baron and Kate Goodfellow have set out to excavate the holes created in life when something or someone has to be left behind. The main thrust of RedBellyBlack’s OK, BYE deals with three siblings mourning the premature death of their mother. These naturalistic scenes are honest and sweet, deftly exploring the complex relationships of siblings regressing into childhood habits and trying to deal with the bleak reality of adulthood.
Alongside the main story, and spotted throughout the play, are verbatim stories about the different ways we say goodbye. We hear about the bittersweet sorrow of releasing carrier pigeons, losing weight and – in one particularly fascinating story – about a man leaving behind a life of religion (and a seriously religious wife). The skits give the cast a chance to show off their comic prowess, mouthing along in perfect time to the recordings. But however interesting, their addition to the play – along with a smattering of physical theatre – seems a bit like the company are throwing style at the wall to see what sticks.
RedBellyBlack bill themselves as a company who are ‘telling stories in ways you’ve never seen before’, but in the pursuit of individuality, they may have sacrificed genuine pathos in this whistle-stop tour of grief. The script has its fingers stuck in so many pies that it never quite manages to follow anything to a meaningful conclusion and works to disassociate the audience from the main crux of the play.
Shows about loss do not always have to be evocative (the audience doesn’t need to be crying in the aisles in every story about grief), but I was itching for each section of the show to go a little deeper. The show is at its best when the cast are given space and time to get stuck into a scene. Their charisma and chemistry ensure OK, Bye is an enjoyable hour of theatre – but perhaps not a goodbye the audience will think too much about after the curtain falls.