In the face of impending climate catastrophe; the Three Graces provides a restless mosaic of the ways that women carve out a legacy for themselves in a world that undermines, dismisses or erases their place in it. The intersections of motherhood and creativity, of how those in power can dictate the memories and traditions that the next generation will pass on. Before I continue to reflect on this piece, I would like to iterate that the conception of womanhood and motherhood represented in this piece is cisgender, Anglo Saxon and euro centric. This is not a criticism of the piece itself but for the purposes of this reflection I feel it is important to acknowledge and pay reverence to the broad binaries of what the experience of being a woman or a mother can be.
Laura Lethlean’s text is epic, ambitiously rich in ideas and images. She alternates between (initially) playful and mediative exchanges between three 2000-year-old statues that frequently segue into brief episodes concerning contemporary women hotly debating and discoursing their place in the world; what they owe to themselves, to their art, the children and the environment. As the play progresses the lines between the contemporary and the ancient begin to slowly merge. Her writing is cerebral, grandiloquent and frequently funny; she frequently conjures up beautiful phrases that evokes recognition and validation. Throughout I reflected on the pacing; there were several instances where it felt like to play was reaching its climax only to persevere; I found myself wishing that there was some space to allow her words to breathe and flow. The writing is at it’s most profound when it evokes a sense of urgency.
She has found a brave and inventive collaborator in Katie Cawthorne energetic and frequently physical direction. They have developed an intimacy between the text and the action that is consistently revelatory; I was deeply moved by the moments when the women seemed to crumble only for them to attempt to hold each other up.
Performers Madeline Nunn, Candace Miles and Anna Rodway are more than equal to the task of achieving their vision. They are commanding orators with exceptional tone and clarity; Rodway especially has a richness to her voice that she uses to sublime effect. Miles moves through the space with enviable dignity conveying brittleness and rage in glances and in the placement of her shoulders. Madeline Nunn’s vulnerability and verbal dexterity make her the heart of the piece; she is frequently caught in the middle of dividing worldviews and you can practically see her mind whirring behind her deeply expressive eyes.
The mood is seamlessly evoked by a haunting, hypnotic composition and sound scape by Grace Ferguson; operated by the nimble Jacob Trethowan. Rachel Lee’s thoughtful, detailed lighting design has so much presence it could evoke a fourth character within the text. She evokes some beautiful transitions between the lucent and illumination in the darkness. The smoothness and efficiency of the delivery is a credit to stage manager, Laura Barnes.
Katie Cawthorne says in her director’s notes that ‘the three Graces is essential to witness at this time in history’ and I agree; we are witnessing reproductive rights being legislated against, climate inaction, apathy and deeply divisive fear. This production provides a space to meditate and reflect the role of art, our shared history and what kind of future we are shaping. You can see it at Theatreworks until June 2nd.
Images: Sarah Walker