Sunday 26 May 2019

The Three Graces review

Climate change, gender equality and the role of women in society all come together in Laura Lethlean's The Three Graces. Manifesting as a water fountain that has been turned off, three goddesses come together to voice their distress and opinions of where the world is heading and whether or not it's too late to work towards change. 

Madelaine Nunn, Candace Miles and Anna Rodway play Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne, collectively known as The Three Graces who were regarded to possess the essence of beauty, charm and grace. The three actors are dressed in various black jumpsuit-like outfits that echo peploi that The Three Graces would have worn, but also suits the characters they play in the contemporary scenes. While the three are adept with the material, the performances sometimes feel too exaggerated with big, expressive movements and dialogue that is awkward and unnatural.

The cast perform with audiences sitting on either side of the space, and director Katie Cawthorne ensures that the play is viewable regardless of where you sit. However, there is a forced elegance in the direction and along with scenes that are too heavy with exposition, it prevents a connection between the material and the audience. There are also instances when characters are standing on opposite ends of the stage as they have a conversation that becomes overly theatrical and so loses the intimacy and the impact of what is being discussed.

There has been much theatre covering the issues and themes pertaining to being a woman and the power society holds over its people so it's disappointing that Lethlean's script comes across like a tired rehash of them. There's nothing here to surprise the audience or make them think differently about anything. A bolder approach to sharing these ideas is necessary if they are going to be the same ones we've experienced before not only in the arts, but in our own lives. 

The design elements of The Three Graces however bring support to the text and the cast, eliciting a range of emotions. Tyler Ray Hawkin's stage design has Nunn, Miles and Rodway performing on sand and is a constant reminder of the passing of time and how quickly history can easily be erased. Rachel Lee's lighting is intensely felt with lights set up around the perimeter of the space and creating highly distinctive and dramatic effects throughout. At one point, Lee's lighting makes it appear as if the ground the actors are standing on is tremoring, resulting in a powerful thrill to the show that is otherwise missing. Grace Ferguson's sound design works well with the scenes from harps being played during The Three Graces scenes to a more ominous score as the gravity of their circumstances deepen. 

The Three Graces uses Greek theatre conventions to combine the mythological and the contemporary to explore a number of concerns that even though have come to prominence only recently  - relatively speaking - have always been challenged or questioned. While it captures our attention artistically, this production ultimately struggles to connect and engage on a more profound level due to the way these subject matters are presented.

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 2 June | Tues - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm 
Tickets: $47.50Full | $39.50 Conc | $32.50 Students/Under 30 
Bookings: Theatre Works

Photo Credit: Sarah Walker

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