Girl hunches over notebook, on stage strewn with rubbish
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Quirky metaphors mix mental and eco health

Fringe World review: Public Service Announcement, Grace⋅
Blue Room Theatre, January 23⋅
Review by Xan Ashbury⋅

Grace is a quirky play tackling the serious issue of mental health and environmental pollution. It is written by Zachary Sheridan (who describes it as semi-autobiographical), directed by Phoebe Sullivan and presented by Public Service Announcement, a new collective of Perth theatre makers.

The opening scene, featuring Elise Wilson, was a highlight for me. She used puppetry and mime to hilarious effect, engaging and intriguing the audience. Her character’s identity – as an octopus – is revealed when the home’s resident, Grace, returns. The teen, played by Ana Ika, is socially isolated and neglected as a result of family breakdown, illness and poverty.

Stylistic features such as looped dialogue build empathy for Grace, who seems to suffer with anxiety and depression. The discomforting set consists of strewn rubbish constantly being shuffled and sorted by the characters and offers an insight into Grace’s emotional state. Simone Detourbet and Anna Dooley slip easily between the roles of octopi, Grace’s parents and unkind peers. The octopuses have their own tale of woe, thanks to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.

Some of the dialogue between Grace and the uninvited guests sparkles with wit. Other moments are poignant and the audience is left to ponder the layers of metaphor and symbolism long after leaving the theatre.

Grace continues until January 26.

Pictured top: Ana Ika as Grace. Photo: Zachary Sheridan.

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