Gravity & Grace - Reviewed by Tanya Piejus | Regional News Connecting Wellington

Gravity & Grace

Written by: Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken

Directed by: Eleanor Bishop

Circa Theatre, 10th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Everybody fails, sometimes spectacularly. Few write a fearless book about it, but this is exactly what feminist writer Chris Kraus did after her experimental feature film epically flopped at a Berlin film market in 1998. Based on her book Aliens & Anorexia, this bold and innovative stage show seeks to answer the question: how did it all go so wrong?

Co-playwright Karin McCracken takes the lead role of Kraus and is supported by an ensemble cast of four (Nī Dekkers-Reihana, Simon Leary, Rongopai Tickell, and Sam Snedden) who expertly fill all the other roles in her strange life. McCracken is natural and engaging as someone who eventually realises that having no visual imagination is a bad foundation for becoming a filmmaker.

As much cinema as theatre, this stage show uses four cameras positioned beside, above, and on the stage to live-project the actors onto a large screen behind the acting area. Objects (including a gross-looking bowl of cold Campbell’s minestrone soup) also appear, set up on a lightbox at the edge of the stage. The technical work to mix this varying vision with recorded footage, sometimes matching it frame for frame, is astounding. Video designer Owen Iosefa McCarthy, video programmer Rachel Neser (Artificial Imagination), and show operator Natasha Thyne deserve special recognition. Also working seamlessly with the technology is a subtly effective lighting design (Rob Larsen) that lets the actors be seen but never gets in the way of the projections and atmospheric soundscape (Emi 恵美 Pogoni).

Another clever touch in the staging (performance designer Meg Rollandi) is a cut-out section of the screen that has a gauzy covering behind which the actors appear as characters, such as the British film producer Kraus has a long-distance sadomasochistic phone-sex relationship with, who Kraus never meets.

The many awesome technical ideas make the show run a little long at two-and-a-half hours, but this is my only critique of an otherwise fascinating and creatively delivered production.

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