BY KATHRYN PIERCE
In collaboration with @SomewhereEDI
I was looking forward to catching KATIE REDDIN-CLANCY’s Grace – billed as ‘a production about power and letting go’ – an hour-long, character-filled solo show commenting on meaty subjects such as gender, identity, love and death, among other things.
The performance centres on the vaudevillian characters of Zora and male alter-ego Alfie, performing in an old regional theatre for the first time since their co-star and former lover Grace met with an untimely death. Supporting acts come in the form of various characters such as with Sheryl (with an ‘S’) the theatre manager, Audrey the Am-Dram ghost, Anna the agent and PR manager, and even dearly-departed Grace comes back to have her say.
Each of the characters has a different story to tell, attempting to offer something to current conversations around fame, gender fluidity, the re-configuring of sexual paradigms (“just because you’re in a relationship with a woman doesn’t mean you’re a card-carrying lesbian. Welcome to 2018”), and the role of show business in artistic and personal freedom.
There were glimpses of sharper-witted comedy in a couple of the characters, and I found myself wishing this had been a stand-up set instead. The performance itself was good, and some of the character work I really liked; Reddin-Clancy has a good singing voice and she commanded the room well. I really felt for her though as the excessive noise bleed from the adjacent performance space was unacceptably intrusive throughout the majority of the show, and she did very well to maintain a professional performance throughout. When questioned after the show had ended, staff at the venue claimed there hadn’t been any previous complaints about the issue.
The ambitions for the production are high but unfortunately it doesn’t deliver, instead becoming a confusing jump between roles (especially between Zora/Alfie narratives) with ultimately none of the characters bringing anything of real substance to the table. Trans identities aren’t explored with any insight, and the use of alter-egos, secret languages, gendered toys and role-play creates a mist of superficial and fanciful, which is a real shame.
I came away not really knowing what the piece was trying to tell me.