Reviewed – 30th April 2018
“The performance is beautiful, pitched perfectly to capture both naivety and knowing”
Fundamentalism and personal freedom are examined in Gracie at the Finborough Theatre. Growing up in the confines of a fundamentalist Mormon Community in Utah, Gracie is a lively happy little girl consciously unaware of the restrictions put upon her. Produced by Tanzanite Theatre, Joan Macleod’s play has a tangible relevance in light of current gender politics.
One-person shows are tough, both for performer and audience. But this is an accomplished and engaging production. Although a guest on the set of another production, Gemma Aked-Priestley’s direction is light and encompassing, making full use of the intimate space. At ninety minutes, there are moments that seem prolonged, but Carla Langley’s energetic delivery never lets the pace dwindle too long. The performance is beautiful, pitched perfectly to capture both naivety and knowing. Gracie is charming and winsome, loving and trusting of her Mamma. Equally there are flashes of understanding as the demands placed on her and those she loves become more unsavoury. Langley creates Gracie’s family with precision and care. It’s a fantastic job.
The only weakness is in the Mormons themselves. Their lifestyle still seems obscure. Shelby, Jamie and Stanley, the men who pose a direct threat to Gracie and her family, remain largely abstract. Shelby has a charismatic menace, but we see little more to justify Mamma’s trust in him or understand her choice to bring her children to a place where she is immediately separated from son Billy. Jamie and Stanley are simply bad husbands. The good Mormon Sister-wives, while sympathetic, also lack depth. This for me is problematic. While seeing this world through a child’s eye allows us to see how indoctrination can be normalised, the danger seems too severe. It feels like while this piece has a very strong argument, it’s missing a component to give a fully rounded picture.
However, this is a thought provoking show with a memorable performance at its core. Definitely worth a look.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
Finborough Theatre until 15th May