Edinburgh Fringe 2018
An intense yet darkly comic story about how reality gets in the way of aspirations. Before you know it, you need to grow up and join the big bad world.
It’s Laura’s 30th birthday. A coming of age for most people. But is this it? Working as an ‘office angel’ in an anonymous wealth management company somewhere in the Square Mile? What happened to her dreams of earning a crust as a photographer? Can you really claim to be an artist when you’re temping? And what of Will? Is she just a long-term dog-minder for her absent boyfriend? Why can’t she be like Dani, her best friend and soul mate, now married and living the dream in New Zealand? So many questions, so few answers.
This exquisitely scripted, tightly choreographed and inventively animated play is the first from the very apply named Grit and Grace Theatre. Written and performed by the extremely impressive Stacey Devonport, it grabs you from the opening lines and refuses to let you go as you follow Laura’s life from cradle to the onset of middle age. The first in her family to go to university. Her graduation as a fully-fledged photographer. Her inability to find work in her chosen field. Her aspirations and dreams turning to disillusion as reality bites.
Devonport is one consummate actor. Possessed of a wide vocal range, she is as adept at portraying men as women as she wove a tale that was alternately ironic, dry and poignant. Her accents were many and all spot on – subtle varieties of Londoner, Northern, Scottish (a hard one to pull off convincingly up here) and several others as she shaped and delivered over a dozen quite different characters. Using her body to its full, bendable effect, she moved with real imagination and alacrity around the very tight Theatre One stage in theSpaceUK’s Surgeons’ Hall.
Three white cubes were the extent of the set but they allowed Devonport to act in three dimensions, using these to create height and variety as she spun her story. Less is often more in theatre and was the case here with no props, just Devonport’s hands, arms, eyes and body to convey all manner of objects with aplomb. But a special mention must be made of Iris Abois’ superb animation. Cakes (projected onto the actor), London skylines, street lights, discos, bars, people in streets, birds and much, much more floated around us adding real support to the words tumbling forth from Laura and her many friends on stage.
The script was alternately light and dark, fused with irony, humour, pathos and poignancy. Acutely observational, the single or double word sentences contrasted with normal prose and really brought out the angst and longing inherent in the piece. Lots of words, but not one wasted. And the denouement was so heart-rending, so poignant all the audience wanted to do at the end was to go up and hug the poor soul on stage. Well, I did at any rate. Quite where the depth in this script came from I don’t know, but it really makes you think.
This is a cracking piece of theatre – acting, movement, script, sound and light and that lovely animation make this a first-class debut from a very talented company. They have a bright future ahead of them if this is the quality of work they can produce. Highly recommended viewing.