Review: Three Graces

Original, enigmatic and sobering

By Irene Bell

Growing up as a girl, you tend to simply accept that one day you will become a mother. At some point, you come to the realisation that in fact being a mother is not a necessity – it is not a must. It follows that you are faced with the daunting question: if not must, then why?

The Anchor Theatre Company’s enigmatic and sobering piece, The Three Graces, explores not only the possible whys but also the possible – and probable – repercussions of bringing children into an increasingly devastated world, populated with an increasingly nihilistic human race.

The piece explores this reality through two perspectives. First we are introduced to the eponymous Graces derived from Greek and Roman mythology, the Graces here represent mirth, brightness and elegance. The Graces watch as people go about their days and revel – or try to revel as best they can – in the machinations of the modern world. Simultaneously, we follow the lives of three women: a visual artist, an environmental and feminist activist, and (at the risk of simplifying the character) a mother. As these women ponder the ethics of rearing children in an ever-collapsing climate, the graces try to remain positive and gracious about a world that has long forgotten them.

Laura Lethlean has written a magnificent piece of theatre. It simultaneously breaks your heart and inspires you to attempt to be a positive, better person. The script is exquisite and the interchanging monologues and scenes are transfixing.

The performances, by Madelaine Nunn, Candace Miles and Anna Rodway, are an absolute force. Their actors’ ability to transform themselves and to flow between characters as well as their physicality are powerful to watch – in each of them the audience will recognise pieces of themselves. Breaking the fourth wall side, these actors invite you into their world and it is impossible to turn them down.

While the writing and acting shine on grand proportions, under the direction of Katie Cawthorne,  Tyler Ray Hawkins’s set design, Grace Ferguson’s sound design and Rachel Lee’s lighting create an ambience that is both minimal and mystical. The black-box theatre is transformed into an ancient Greek-like amphitheatre, with the audience seated around a sandpit. This immediately transposes us to another world – the world of the graces, where lighting is warm and hopeful. The women, however, live in another, starker reality. The shifts in lighting and in mood nudge the audience along, creating a perfect canvas for the performance to harmonise with, and the music elegantly ebbs and flows, enveloping the action in a cinematic way.

Each part of The Three Graces comes together in glorious fashion, creating a sensational production. Led by an exceptional team, it’s a show not to be missed. I look forward to what the Anchor Theatre Company produces next.


The Three Graces is being performed at Theatreworks until 2 June. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9534 3388.

Photograph: Sarah Walker