Goodness – a review – SPARK Festival at the Belfry Theatre

Goodness, written by Michael Redhill, and performed by Volcano Theatre, currently at the Belfry Theatre’s SPARK Festival, stands as the singular most important piece of theatre I’ve seen to date.

Although now an avid theatre-goer, in my 30s and 40s my moral certitude, and belief system, led me to filter the arts through a black and white lens.  I judged much to be “unwatchable” or “inappropriate”, searching instead for the “wholesome”; plays and entertainment with tidy endings, and answers.

In the intervening years, life has taught me lessons, and I’ve learned to sit in uncertainty.

Nothing, however, had prepared me for the intensity of Goodness, and the moral questioning it provokes.

Goodness 2Goodness by Michael Redhill, performed by Volcano Theatre. Photo: Photo by John Lauener, used with permission

As audience, we often remain distanced from the action onstage; we can hide behind the “us” and project the actors as “them”. Goodness removes this defence – completely – on more than one level as it considers the question “Why do good people rush to do evil, and what becomes of them?”

The play begins with the writer, Michael Redhill (Paul Braunstein in his first appearance in this role) addressing the audience, and immediately we have nowhere to hide. The cast (as audience members) begin to sing, and join him onstage.

Michael is undergoing a life crisis provoked by his wife’s (Amy Rutherford) infidelity. In search of answers and to heal, he heads on an ill-advised trip to Poland, searching for traces of his family annihilated in the Holocaust.

When the answers do not come, he begins his trip home.  There, in a London bar, the true quest begins. A chance conversation (replete with moral outrage) with a stranger (J.D. Nicholson) leads him to the home of Althea (Lili Francks).

It will take him to circle within circle of consideration, to the re-telling of unspeakable evil, to questions on the nature of “the other”. Every time, the answer remains just out of his grasp. Via Althea’s story he’ll be introduced to the person presented as instigator, Mathias Todd (Layne Coleman), his daughter Julia (Amy Rutherford), Althea’s younger self (Tara Hughes), and Stephen Part (J.D. Nicholson).

With nothing more than a stage, bare except for a few chairs, and one or two props, the cast of Goodness bear witness to the complexity of the idea of good and evil.  Haunting music of indeterminate origin underscores their words. Lighting is sparse and at times narrowly focused – it is impossible to avert our gaze.

I sit emotionally drained – this is theatre, and acting, at its bravest.  There is nowhere for the actors (or audience) to hide; the entire ensemble delivers its all in service to the piece.

Searing in its intensity Goodness approaches difficult subject matter with great dignity, and respect for the human condition. It’s very important proof that theatre is relevant for its ability to provoke thought and discussion.

Don’t expect happy and tidy endings. But please – don’t let that deter you. This is a necessary dialogue.

As for the play, it will speak for itself. I cannot know what it will say to each of you, but I do know that art is a candle that lets us peer safely into darkness: a small light, best shared.  (Ross Manson, Volcano)


SPARK Festival
Belfry Theatre
March 13-17th 8pm
March 18th 2pm
Tickets $20 online or by phone 250 385 6815


Written by | Michael Redhill
Directed by Ross Manson
Set & Costumes by | Teresa Przybylski
Musical Direction by | Brenna MacCrimmon
Sound by | John Gzowksi
Lighting Design by | Rebecca Picherack
Starring | Paul Braunstein, Layne Coleman, Lili Francks, Tara Hughes, J.D. Nicholsen,  Amy Rutherford


Disclaimer:  I was offered complimentary tickets to attend opening night. I was not paid to write a review nor was I required to do so. As always, I retain editorial control over all the content published on this blog.

About @lacouvee

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