Rosemary Branch Theatre
Reviewed – 9th August 2018
“a celebration of womanhood, revealing it in all its guts and glory”
Being a woman can be bloody difficult at times. It certainly can have its ups and downs. New play Graceful, with its all-female cast, tries to encapsulate these difficulties, finding an inventive way to shine a light on the complexities us ladies battle within ourselves daily. Through humour and heartache Graceful simply shares a snapshot in time within the lives of two women suddenly pushed together.
Seventeen year old Grace (Chloe Jane Astleford) is sent to live with a distant relative of her father’s while he checks himself into rehab to deal with his alcoholism. Thirty-eight year old Rhonda (Eleanor Dillon-Reams) is there to take Grace in. She’s single and has never been a mum. Grace is introverted and has never had a mum. Should these two women fulfil the mother and daughter roles? Or, are they destined be more like friends? While learning to cohabit with one another, and beginning to learn more about the other, their relationship intensifies once all their cards are put on the table. Catherine Brown and Asha Reid play Grace and Rhonda’s inner selves, serving as the commentators and judges of the characters’ actions and memories. Hearing the inner mechanisms of these women’s minds, allows the most personal of thoughts, desires and wishes to rise to the surface.
Having an insight into such intimate feelings, particularly that of women, feels refreshing, if not also very much of our time right now. With such movements as #metoo and #timesup gathering momentum, Graceful explores the effects of some of the issues these groups are wanting to abolish. Writer Hayley Ricketson does a pleasing job at highlighting other relevant matters encompassing women in 2018, making a distinction between what is worrying teenagers and what is worrying the middle-aged woman. Combined with themes of sexuality and the reclaiming of the female body, Graceful is a celebration of womanhood, revealing it in all its guts and glory.
Being character focused rather than story driven, means that the discussion of deeply buried emotions takes prestige over an action packed storyline, which at times, drags the ninety minute running time. However, director Mike Cottrell sensitively handles the material primarily about the female psyche. All four cast members give credible performances, yet I would like to see more of a facial/physical/verbal connection to the Inner Selves and the character they are the minds of. Despite the nit-picking, all in all, this is a solid new piece of work, adding to the much needed change of tides currently occurring, giving all women a voice.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Edwina Strobl
Rosemary Branch Theatre