Four Days of Grace is the second production by ‘Clever as Clever’ and follows the anguish of Grace, a young mother who is trapped inside the walls of her home waiting for a fridge to be delivered. Performed in the New Diorama Theatre, this earnest monologue brings us into Grace’s home and places us right there dealing with the frustrations and anxious thoughts that emerge while awaiting the delivery of an exciting order.
The play is performed by one talented actress, Rachel Marwood as Grace, who is crippled by her past and trying to overcome disillusionment: Her husband has passed away at war; her son is only allowed to visit fortnightly; and now she must wait for a fridge to be delivered – a stress-filled assignment for even the best-balanced of us. She has to face the all-too-familiar frustrations of robotic switchboard operators; cheerful customer service reps; and a note through the door stating ‘Sorry you were out’ when she was definitely inside the house, waiting. I cringed in my seat sympathizing with Grace’s struggles and her ‘count to ten’ strategy while trying to maintain her composure.
The stage design by Tom Power is simple but effective. We are placed in Grace’s kitchen, with a few props including a light wooden table and chairs, floor-to-wall linoleum tiles and an electric kettle which is turned on throughout. There is a fridge-shaped hole in the kitchen wall and, behind that, a projection screen that shows the street outside with passing traffic and neighbours. A radio station playing muffled music behind Grace’s monologue is constantly churning and creates a real sense of time and the nervous tension in the room.
As the show goes on, the script peels away levels of Grace’s back-story and we slowly become more invested in the character. Although the play is not a comedy, Grace brings to life her pain and suffering with dark humour. She keeps things varied by imitating voices, expressions, and changing the tone of her voice through various lines in a way that maintains an interesting pace and supports the evolution of the drama. In a drunken attempt to make her house look like an enchanted forest for her son, she disperses soil and twigs all over her living room floor. And, we laugh as she pours herself another glass of wine and excitedly fantasizes about buying a whole four pints of milk rather than a small carton. But then we wonder if she will really buy all this milk – and peas and pizza – as she claims she will.
This was my first time visiting the New Diorama Theatre but hopefully not my last. ‘Clever as Clever’ prides itself on producing powerful works that addresses serious issues – and they have succeeded once again. Written with real skill by Drew Ballantyne and directed by Kamaal Hussain, the script effectively sustains the dramatic momentum and the audience’s attention. With the gifted Rachel Marwood playing Grace, it was difficult not to enjoy this entertaining and moving performance.
Even though the audience was small, everyone was fully engaged throughout the 1-hour play. The story examines issues in modern society and, while thought-provoking and depressing at times, it was an absolute delight to watch. Just like Grace, I now dread my next package delivery.
Four Days of Grace runs from Tuesday 20th March until Saturday 7th April, 7:30pm at the New Diorama Theatre. Tickets £12.50 / £11.50