Tag Archives: Remy Beasley

Review For The Grace Of You Go I (Online). by Alan Harris. A Theatr Clwyd production, co​-commissioned by Wiltshire Creative by Richard Evans

Many of us have bemoaned the lack of live theatre over the past months, the atmosphere, the immediacy, the inventiveness behind a good production.  Would a virtual presentation be able to compensate and provide a stimulating theatrical experience?

Online interaction has been something that many of us have had to get used to and is now such a familiar form of media for both business and entertainment.  Would it work for a play that cries out for a live audience? 

Alan Harris’ play, ‘For The Grace Of You Go I’  is a dark comedy that explores the theme of mental illness, in particular a personality disorder.  It demonstrates how illness and disadvantage fits in a context of a ruthless, profit driven society that shows little understanding and still less sympathy for those who find themselves unable to conform to a standard sense of normality. The main character, Jim (Rhodri Meilir) is forced into a job creation scheme or else lose the benefits he needs to survive.  However he is unable to keep up with the demands of work or the strictures placed upon him.  Why should a pepperoni pizza have 6 pieces of sausage arranged in a circle?

Central to the play is an examination of reality, individuality and purpose in life.  Jim suffers from a depersonalization=derealisation disorder where he has a repeated experience of viewing himself from outside his body.  This has a debilitating and demoralizing effect on him and effectively prevents him from accessing work and relationships as he would like, leading him into a spiral of depression.  However, he expresses this with an honesty that contrasts markedly with Mark (Darren Jeffries) who comes across as self-assured, successful with an aspirational lifestyle.  This however is a sham and his life is effectively a lie. 

With both characters being dysfunctional, the play explores the support society should give to those with a mental illness. Remi Beasley’s character, Irina is the person who promotes the back to work scheme designed to help reconstruct the lives of those like Jim.  She presents an enthusiastic, sympathetic persona to him that is sadly crushed by the target driven, profit oriented company they work for.  Her frustration is initially directed to Jim but as she grows in knowledge and affection for him, this is directed towards the soulless nature of the company and the empty promises it makes.  This very much mirrors the experience of those marginalised in our society who seek to reconstruct their lives.

The play is drawn to a memorable climax when Jim and Mark meet at a film club.  They are both heavily influenced by a film by Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki, ‘I hired a hitman’.  To escape his despondence, Jim attempts to mimic the film by hiring Mark to be a hitman who will end his suffering. 

The set was highly effective using a simple backdrop of three primary colours that allowed a change of mood and scene to occur seamlessly.  It helped focus the attention on the actors and dialogue rather than distract the eye as some more complex backdrops can do. 

It was superbly acted by the three players, whose dialogue and interplay was slick and convincing.  However, while there were many occasions when the dialogue brought out a smile, there was a smouldering intensity about the production that drew towards an inevitable, tragic conclusion.  To me, the most important conclusion was that the authentic life must prevail and be lived with integrity no matter what the circumstance.  This is followed closely by the searing indictment of a harsh, money driven society lacking compassion and the ability to help those with significant mental health problems.  As such it is a timely reminder that after this current pandemic, there will be plenty of people in need of substantial support. 

Did the play successfully translate to a virtual environment?  It was certainly riveting viewing and well worth a watch, but I stand by the impression that this is no replacement for a live performance, good as it was.  It is a convenient format, where you can pause, refill your glass and come back to it, but the flat screen dulls the senses to the poignancy playing out in front of you.  Congratulations to Theatr Clwyd for having the ambition to film and broadcast this production.  It was a welcome treat after being starved of theatre for so long, however, it will be great to walk through the doors and experience once again live theatre in reality. 

Review, For the Grace of You Go I, Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is a sadness and deep sense of injustice behind the humour and surrealism of For the Grace of You Go I. Due to begin just before the pandemic hit, Alan Harris’ play may be long overdue but its delay has proved timely. Beneath the strange veneer of a storyline in which a man puts out a hit on himself lies a sobering analysis of the inequalities that coronavirus has exposed in society over the past 18 months. It makes for a darkly comic play that is both hugely entertaining yet deeply unsettling.

Its colourful set, of luminescent pink, green and yellow walls, belies the broken and struggling lives of its characters. They do reflect the dreaminess of their existence though. Jim (Rhodri Meilir), employed to put pepperoni on pizza as part of a government scheme, imagines himself as Employee of the Month – complete with giant rosette and accomplished chef’s hat – in one of several cartoonish scenes projected onto the walls. In reality, he is a thorn in his line manager Irina’s side. Played by Remy Beasley, she is under constant pressure to meet targets, and Jim’s daydreaming does nothing to help matters. Though work gives him a sense of purpose, she is forced to let him go. His only solace is found in a monthly film club where he meets new guy Mark (Darren Jeffries), whose obsession with American action movies makes him the perfect partner in Jim’s movie-styled life. After watching the 1990 Finnish film I Hired a Contract Killer, Jim decides that he wants to take the place of its protagonist and asks Mark to do the honours in killing him. It may sound rather far-fetched but there is a serious underbelly to its hyperbole and other-worldliness.

Jeffries gives an assured performance as Mark, whose Mancunian swagger hides a far more vulnerable masculine existence. He is terrific opposite Rhodri Meilir, who brings a beautiful innocence to the troubled Jim, their exchanges pacy and lively throughout to give a slightly unnerving edge to the funny and ironic dialogue. Beasley is wonderfully on-edge as the hassled Irina, maintaining a brilliant balance between sanity and breakdown such that her character fizzes both in dialogue and action like a loosely-corked bottle of pop. The pressures on all three are palpable in their different ways; and they give rise to the much bigger issues at play. Harris comments on mental health, consumerism, capitalism and the political system without ever being preachy. He achieves this through the disabling use of humour and by intimately tying the issues to the narrative. As a result, they ooze naturally out to offer a searing indictment on the oppressive systems and privileged attitudes in existence within society, tempered frequently by the comic form.

I had expected to be overwhelmed as I walked through the doors of Theatr Clwyd for the first time in 18 months. But though it felt special to enter the building to a familiarly warm welcome, made more so by the beaming sun as it flooded in through the windows; to give a knowing smile to the recognisable pictures on the stairs up to the Emlyn Williams theatre; and to be greeted by the same ever-delightful staff who were courteous and helpful as I got into a bit of confusion over my ticket number, it was the reminder of the importance of theatre, as a medium that can speak truth to power, that really made its mark. That importance has not gone away over the course of the pandemic. If anything, it has grown stronger and become more vital than ever. But having become acutely aware of this once-unspoken assumption outside of the context of its physical space and place, For the Grace of You Go I was the first opportunity for what had become apparent through the screen to be embodied within the bricks and mortar to which theatre most truly belongs. As such, Alan Harris’ already-powerful message struck an even deeper chord than it might have in pre-Covid times. If it had something to say then, it most definitely needs to be heard now.

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Reviewed by
Gareth Williams