Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Oct 5 – 15, 2022
Playwright: Alan Harris
Director: Lucy Clements
Cast: Jane Angharad, James Smithers, Shan-Ree Tan
Jimmy is trying to hold down a job, whilst keeping his psychological disorder in check. The menial tasks at the pizza factory however, are not helping. Alan Harris’ For the Grace of You Go I sees its protagonist go through distortions of reality, that are initially innocuous, until watching a film by Aki Kaurismäki inspires Jimmy to hire a contract killer, to have himself murdered. Harris’ play is distinctly absurdist in style, with surrealist elements that seem appropriately congruent with depictions of mental illness.
The multiverse, as experienced by Jimmy, presents an opportunity for a show of playful flamboyance, but the production proves an overly subtle one, often leaving us more befuddled than amused, by the confusion of that contorted world. Directed by Lucy Clements, whose restrained approach shifts focus from the comedy, choosing instead to explore the more melancholic qualities of the narrative, resulting in a staging that feels unnecessarily staid.
Congruently, actor James Smithers is most persuasive, when playing Jimmy at his most vulnerable and introspective. Concluding scenes demonstrate Smithers’ flair for conveying a silent anguish, that helps humanise the character and his story. Jane Angharad is severe and dry, as the officious Irina, and Shan-Ree Tan as Mark brings much needed energy at each entrance, for a work that tends toward a misplaced circumspection.
Set design by Monique Langford and Kate Ingram, feature entirely green surfaces that indicate the instability of Jimmy’s constantly morphing mind, by drawing parallels with the essential illusoriness of movie sets. Lights by Alice Stafford and music by Sam Cheng, are discreetly rendered to help facilitate the portrayal of a man in deterioration.
Illnesses are of course no joke, but art has the ability to make light of the dark, whilst retaining dignity for those involved. There is little to be gained, when polite society insists on sweeping the harder parts of life under the carpet. Through storytelling, we attain understanding and compassion. Thankfully not every lesson needs to be learned first-hand, but how we find expression and how we listen, are paramount.