David Lindsay-Abaire’s play may be set in the rough projects of South Boston (USA, not Lincolnshire), but its tale of poverty and struggle is just as familiar with a backdrop of rising inequality in the UK, and particularly London.
Imelda Staunton plays Margie, a feisty woman scrabbling on the poverty line. When we first meet her she’s being fired from her checkout job for being repeatedly late after failing to find to someone to watch her adult daughter — who has severe learning difficulties. On hearing that an old boyfriend Mike (Lloyd Owen) has moved back to town and has made good, she’s persuaded to go to his swish office in the hope of finding work.
It’s in the taut, uncomfortable and also very funny second half that the play really hits its stride. There’s a belief among the more conservative elements of both US and UK society that the poor somehow deserve to be poor, that if they’d just make a bit more effort, push a bit harder, they’d all be able to ‘get out’. It’s certainly what Mike believes. But was it really just down to the choices he made, or was he lucky? Did he have advantages to start with? And are the choices we make sometimes made for the right reasons, even though they could keep us poor?
Good People played earlier in the year at the Hampstead Theatre and was such a hit it’s getting this limited West End run. It’s easy to see why: theatre with a political message isn’t often easy to watch, but this has the same, weirdly feelgood, vibe as last year’s This House at the National Theatre. Lots of thinking mixed with lots of laughs. Plus everyone’s favourite, Imelda Staunton. You can’t go wrong.
Good People is on at the Noël Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4AU until 14 June. Tickets £10-£52.50 + booking fee. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary press ticket.