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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

The Good Dad (A Love Story)

And Tomorrow Theatre Company

Genre: Solo Play, True-life

Venue: theSpaces: Surgeon's Hall


Low Down

The whole family knew he was a good dad. But he wasn’t well, had a weak heart, so they gathered around him to protect him – from everything, because he really was a good dad. And Donna was special; he loved her the most. So why is Donna in prison?

The Good Dad is based on real events from the 1980s and is presented in association with the charity Victim Support.


“Honour thy mother and thy father. Thou shalt not murder thy father. Nor thy mother. But definitely not thy father.”

The play opens as we meet Donna (Sarah Lawrie) sitting on a stool on an empty stage, and then weaves back and forth between three narrators: Donna, her twin sister Carol and their mother. Dad was a good dad, but he had a weak heart, so needed to be protected and everyone in the family colluded to protect him and maintain an air of normalcy.

The stage is simply set with the stool and two garments and a blanket pegged to the back curtain.

Gail Louw’s beautifully crafted but harrowing play shows how powerful that instinct to maintain the status quo can be. We never hear directly from Dad but his control over his wife and twin daughters weaves through every action, every memory each of the three women share, at the expense of all those around him, including the agencies Donna encounters on her journey. The story is inspired by real events of the 1980s, a time when the extent of abuse within families was still only just emerging, when the language around the subject, especially concerning disclosure was still in its infancy. All of which added up to a culture of secrecy allowing a master manipulator such as the good Dad to gradually separate Donna from her twin and set each of the three women against each other, all blaming each other.

You may be puzzled at the start but stay with it, a powerful story unfolds, and I’m not going to spoil it by describing too much, much of the power lies in that gradual working out of the dynamics you are witnessing.

The story is framed by the sessions she has with a psychiatrist; however, I wasn’t sure why she is choosing to tell it now, what has driven her to speak out now, after so many years of silence.

Louw’s writing is fluent, nuanced and natural, with each of the key characters having a clear voice. Lawrie presents each of the three clearly, differentiating the three women by the use of an additional garment, subtly different speech patterns and physicality. Donna’s story understandably takes precedence, I would like to have seen more of Carol and, especially, their mother – the onlookers in the drama whose perspective has been twisted to something we find hard to understand.

Lawrie’s performance is flawless, blending storytelling, some direct address to the audience, and elements of physical theatre, using one thin prison blanket creatively.

Overall, a powerfully told story and one I highly recommend.