For the Grace of You Go I – KXT Theatre (NSW)

Written by Alan Harris, presented by Secret House & New Ghosts Theatre Company

Reviewed by Juliana Payne

Rating: 3 out of 5.

5th-15th October
KXT Theatre, Kings Cross Hotel
Tickets: http://www.kingsxtheatre.com/grace

Images provided by Clare Hawley

I’ve often gazed at a wood-fired pizza and wondered what messages the swirls of cheese and tomato were trying to convey.  OK, no I haven’t, but I will now that I’ve seen For the Grace Of You Go I. 

With many a tip of the hat toward Coen Brothers-style dark absurdism and an homage to the Finnish master of dead-pan black comedy, Aki Kaurismäki, director Lucy Clements and her collaborators bring to life Alan Harris’ darkly funny satire on the human condition.

Against a lurid green backdrop that formed a kind of petri-dish in which their tragicomic encounters played out – not always in the way you’d expect – actors Jane Angharad (who also produced), James Smithers and Shan-Ree Tan rendered a solid production of a wordy and complex script.  With a clever movie-within-a-movie-within-a-play framework, they kept the audience on our toes. What was reality and what was going on in the none-too-reliable minds of the characters?  For a preview set up within a few days, they had a complicated set and multi-camera structure that worked seamlessly and effectively. Depicting everything from a downhill ski run to intimate cinematic close-ups, technical director Alex Holver and – in particular – technical designer/operator Kate Ingram had it all worked out.

I don’t know whether using clips from I Hired a Contract Killer projected onto the wall during the play was a plus or a mistake. Certainly, it’s a unique and darkly hilarious film, but it was a bit of a heavy-handed way to draw out the parallels between the play and the movie.

So poor old Jim’s on a government work for the dole type scheme, slaving away in an artisanal mass-produced pizza company. Yes, all that contradiction, irony, and tragedy – and a whole lot more – is rife throughout this play, with more twist and turns than a delivery rider with a dud GPS. Jim’s poor old corporate manager who thinks, really thinks, she’s doing the right thing at the beginning is equally trapped in the system. Jim’s new best mate Mark who agrees to put Jim out of his misery, is the most tragic of all, but not without offering some dark laughs along the way.

The black humour doesn’t take the sting out of the tale – like all good irony, it highlights what’s wrong, shows it to us in sharp relief, and makes us take notice of it.

The cast do still manage to make Harris’ writing funny, even with the trigger warnings we get at the start of the play. It’s earnest, and a bit didactic at times, but when you’re making a point and feel an urgency to do so, as Alan Harris plainly does, then all may be forgiven. He skewers the many hypocrisies we tolerate or ignore in our post-industrial times, and spotlights how badly we treat those who need support the most. 

The black humour doesn’t take the sting out of the tale – like all good irony, it highlights what’s wrong, shows it to us in sharp relief, and makes us take notice of it. Hopefully we can walk out a little bit chastened and self-aware and be the better for it. Luckily there was a bar downstairs to help us do just that.


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Directed by Lucy Clements
With Jane Angharad, James Smithers & Shan-Ree Tan
Understudies Emma Wright & Joshua Shediak
Assistant Director: Eezu Tan
Producers: Jane Angharad, James Smithers and Emma Wright
Set Designers: Monique Langford & Kate Ingram
Technical Director: Alex Holver
Tech Designer / Operator: Kate Ingram
Lighting Designer: Alice Stafford
Sound Designer: Sam Cheng
Assistant Sound Designer: Johnnny Yang
Costume Designers: Monique Langford & Aloma Barnes
Stage Manager: Clare Sheridan
Assistant Stage Managers: Helia Shariati & Rachel Sloan
presented by Secret House & New Ghosts Theatre Company

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