Grace (Red Stitch Theatre) - 110 minutes without interval
A family secret is the elephant in the room when three generations of women share luxury hotel accommodation in Copenhagen as one of them prepares to accept a prestigious award.
That is Emma (Kate Cole), a middle-aged author, who is about to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award (the “Little Nobel Prize”) for children’s literature.
She is the younger of two daughters (the other, Sophie, we don’t get to see) and has invited her mother Beth (Jillian Murray) to travel to Europe with her.
Photos by Jodie Hutchinson
Later, Emma’s niece – Beth’s granddaughter – Grace (Mia Tuco) arrives unexpectedly.
There’s a great deal of tension in the air throughout, consistent with the uneasy relationship between Emma and Beth, and Emma and Grace.
Beth is a former writer too, a straight talker for whom nothing ever seems good enough.
She makes it clear to Emma as soon as they enter the room that she would have rather been taken to Paris.
When Beth lets down her guard, she speaks uncomfortably about the relationship she had with her own mother.
But that doesn’t stop her from pointing out that Emma hasn’t written anything new for more than a decade.
When young adult Grace first shows her face, Emma is particularly put out.
Emma hasn’t seen Grace in many years, but is hardly welcoming.
Grace is now a teacher in Manchester and particularly proud of what Emma has achieved.
But she has a surprise of her own for Emma, which doesn’t go down well.
It is clear the trio cares for one another, but the unease between them is palpable.
And then Grace’s revelation threatens to upend Emma’s future.
Developed through the Red Stitch INK new writing program, Katy Warner has crafted a compelling familial tale, brim full of humour and pathos.
Beth is gifted a series of choice lines, which Jillian Murray delivers with aplomb. She is a knockout.
Beth’s acerbic tongue can’t hide the decline in her mental health.
In fact, vulnerability is a touchstone of the production.
Each of the characters has been shaped by their past.
Emma made a life-altering choice a couple of decades earlier, while Grace wants to know why she walked out of her life 14 years ago.
I was particularly taken by the nuance Kate Cole displayed in realising the flawed heroine around whom the action unfolds.
Mia Tuco does a good job treading on eggshells as Grace, before her character comes into her own in the final scene.
On a set invoking an elegant hotel room, we are totally reliant on the dialogue and delivery for dramatic impact.
The trio certainly doesn’t let us down, aided by fine direction from Sarah Goodes.
Of course, we learn more about Emma, Beth and Grace as the play progresses.
Importantly, the family secret reveal is saved until well into the piece, which has a wholly satisfying ending.
One hour 50 minutes without interval, Grace is playing at Red Stitch Theatre until 27th February, 2022.