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Gracie

Joan MacLeod
Tanzanite Theatre in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre

Gracie

The warm, conversational American vernacular of the eight-year-old character Gracie immediately engages our attention with her youthful, naïve excitement.

Her story from the age of eight to fifteen is told by Carla Langley as Gracie in an easy, naturalistic monologue.

She describes sitting crammed between her sisters Celeste and Maria in her mum’s car as they travel from Utah to Canada.

They are joining the community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), and her first sight of these people in Canada across a chain link barrier in the road is an exciting vision of bikes and horses.

The FLDS seems friendly and welcoming. She gets to stay in a huge bedroom with Maria and the following morning a brand new bike awaits her.

But even in these early days, there is still the odd uncomfortable moment. There is the slightly sinister way the community leader, Mr. Shelby, places his hand on her head and the speedily arranged marrying of her sister Celeste to a boy she has just met.

Later, there are other cruelties in this hierarchical society where women have few rights. Her sister Maria is forced to become the eighteenth wife of an elderly man, and her mother is expected to keep rolling out the babies despite nearly dying in pregnancy.

These are men who claim the keys to Heaven are dependent on the accumulation of wives.

And to make sure the leading men of the community get the most wives, the less important men such as her brother are simply used as labour and deprived of a partner.

Told through the passive, uncritical observations of the child Gracie, the story is a series of revelations rather than a drama with a pattern of tension. Its account of the FLDS is remote, unreal and barely a sketch of unpleasant characteristics.

You can enjoy spending ninety minutes with the lovable Gracie, but you are less likely to be gripped by the story of this sect and its cruel oppression of women.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna