Reviewed by Matt Gibbins
Rosie's Vineyard, Elm Grove
Portsmouth once again plays host to local playwright Roger Goldsmith in another resounding success, 'Grace', showing at Rosie's Vineyard, a wonderful venue with a hidden gem of a performance space out back in their conservatory.
'Grace' tells the story of two women caught up in a murder trial involving both their children, and the unlikely bond that comes through as a result. Though the intimacy of the venue played to the scripts strengths, unfortunately it did little to help the sight lines. Since there was no raked seating or raised stage area, it often meant that scenes set with the characters seated meant that you lost a fair bit of acting visuals. Really though, considering the venue, it can't be helped and it's a small fault in an otherwise clever and diverse play.
Hazel Aspden, making her full length directorial debut, shows how easily the role comes to her. Having the actors set on stage throughout, in a sort of melancholic state added a great level of drama to the piece, giving an omnipresent tension to each scene. Megan Joan Green gave a brilliant performance as our title character, taking on practically half of the dialogue and action, having been thrown into the role with only a month's rehearsal. Her attack on the script was consistently strong, and she particularly delivered the sarcasm of the lines with great ease. Leigh Cunningham as new best friend Paula gives, once again, an admirable and heartbreaking performance, most of all in her latter scenes where her character dissolves into the mere shell of the woman she once was.
Phil Amor as Frank gave a much more pulled back and gentle approach to an otherwise very angry and loud husband, which added a level of sophistication to the role. Chris Mills and Katie Watson as Ray and Sarah, lovers torn apart by a brutal murder, played their roles with a great level of conviction and shone in their few scenes. Newcomer Alice Mulholland as Alice had wonderful authenticity as a young and sexually fired teenager, appropriately flirtatious and naughty, but with a quick wit to boot. Finally, hats off to Elisha Miller who stepped into the role of Oliver at the last minute. Without being told beforehand, it would be difficult to guess he had far less rehearsal than everyone else.
Unfortunately 'Grace' only had a limited sold out run of three nights, but here's hoping that this gem will be reprised at a later date.
Roger Goldsmith presents 'Mirrors' at the Wedgewood Rooms on November 22nd and 23rd, prior to the 'Damages' by Steve Thompson. Tickets available via the venue.