Grace

Thu 16th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Jessica Loram

at 09:46 on 24th Aug 2018

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Outrageously bawdy and wonderfully obscene, ‘Grace’ is sure to make you laugh - at the most indecorous sex scenes - lots. When I compare the play’s opening scene with its closing moments, the journey of Nigel and Sarah is so ridiculous, I can’t help but chuckle again. When we first meet Nigel (Jonny Davison) and Sarah (Ella Dorman Gajic), who are so devout to the point of becoming hammy, I have no idea where this play is going to go. But when a man clad skimpily in boxers runs on stage, only to collapse in a particularly compromising position, I realise that Bloody Livid Theatre Company have some surprises in store for us. To Nigel and Sarah’s delight, the unexpected visitor is Father Samuels (David McCabe) and, from this point onwards, the play gets juicy.

Father Samuels has a twinkle in his eye as he learns how isolated and gullible his hosts are, and his characterisation of the maverick priest becomes mischievously devilish. Being the benevolent man he is, he lends a helping hand to the young married couple, who are struggling to conceive. The play’s risqué-o-metre starts rising, until we realise it has no limit. The contrast between Nigel and Sarah’s childlike naivety and Father Samuel’s wily ways only adds to the hilarity. The audience appear to love the play’s cringe factor, and the fifty minutes pass too quickly. The narrative does, however, seem to rush, and could easily be extended. It would have been funny to watch Nigel and Sarah’s wedding day or first meeting, and the closing scene ends too abruptly: I am sure the rest of the audience were also desperate to discover what on earth would ensue next. I think there is also potential for the script to become an even more tongue-in-cheek commentary on the traditional Catholic teaching around sex.

Davison, Gajic and McCabe execute perfect comic timing and their exaggerated, but unlaboured characterisations make for an entertaining and enjoyable performance.

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Miles Jackson

at 10:29 on 24th Aug 2018

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There’s an mild undercurrent of uneasiness to ‘Grace’, a very bawdy comedy from Bloody Livid Theatre Company. Perhaps it’s the fact that it leaves its premise pretty much unexplained; a puritanical couple living alone in the woods are visited by a half-naked man claiming to be a Priest. The man – supposedly named ‘Father Samuels’ – offers a motive for his sudden appearance, yet it feels eerily contrived, much like everything else about him.

This is to make the play seem far darker than it in fact is. From the moment the couple - Nigel and Sarah - are introduced, the play makes its farcical intentions known. As played by Jonny Davidson and Ella Dorman-Gajic, they are an absurd duo, adopting airs of repressed frilliness and overt politeness that almost immediately get the crowd laughing. They are matched by David McCabe as Samuels, whose nonchalance at manipulating others using his identity at times resembles Algernon in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. All three possess excellent comic timing whilst Geronimo Bennington-Poulter’s script quickly takes to the audience to obscene and wickedly funny places.

Indeed, the play features a remarkably frank depiction of sex as Samuels gleefully takes advantage of the couple’s fervent religion to satisfy his own carnal desires. Sebastian Garbacz’s production wisely doesn’t shy away from depicting acts of sexual intimacy in a remarkably candid way so as to maximise the lewd silliness of these scenes.

By the time ‘Grace’ reaches its denouement, it was threatening to blossom into one of the sharpest and funniest comedies I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. Then, at the moment it feels as though it’s about to reach the dizzying heights of its clever premise’s comedic potential, it suddenly and inexplicably ends. I was shocked to discover 45 minutes had passed so quickly, and actually felt somewhat cheated that the play did not delve further into its farcical potential. A second act, perhaps introducing a fourth character who susses out Samuels’ selfish intentions, would not in any way have gone amiss.

In its current form the play ultimately feels a bit slight, finishing on a bit of a limp note. Still, far better for a show not to outstay its welcome than to drag on longer than it needs to. ‘Grace’ is brimming with comedic potential from all involved, and I look forward to seeing what the company produces in future.

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