Wu plays Nina, a young woman who shares her story almost directly to the audience. From her upbringing in her parents’ Chinese restaurant, to her experiences of friendship, love and abuse – we witness how one informs the other. Ava Wong Davies’ script alternates perfectly between the past and present, combining intimate moments of self-reflection with outbursts of frustration, as if Nina is conversing directly with her boyfriend.
The crux of the story centres on a relationship Nina has recently left. Firstly, it seems like the perfect love story – their eyes meet across a garden at a friend’s barbecue, ketchup running down her chin – the encounter is awkward yet romantic. However, as abusive behaviours slowly seep in, things quickly fall apart. Nina reflects on the relationship and considers: perhaps the behaviours were always there, perhaps she just didn’t want to see it. The story explores important points around recognising emotional abuse and the lasting effects it has on those involved.
Mydd Pharo’s set design compliments Wong Davies’ script and Wu’s performance perfectly – a minimal stage sits between two mounds of dirt. The stage simply contains an unmade bed, which Nina returns to regularly. Pharo places Nina directly in the trenches where she often, quite literally, battles her emotions – clenching mud in her hands, kicking and throwing it across the stage, pacing footprints as she moves. The lighting here is dramatic, yet intimate – superbly navigated by Jai Morjaria.
Graceland asks interesting and urgent questions about love and abuse. Wu’s performance is captivating and the set design and lighting are impressive. The play’s exploration of the infiltration of abuse into seemingly ‘normal’ relationships is timely and sure to resonate with audiences.
Image: Graceland-Credit-Ali Wright
Review by Amy Melling
Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.
Read Amy’s latest review here Review: Peter Doig-The Morgan Stanley Exhibition at Courtauld Gallery until 29 May (abundantart.net)
Ava Wong Davies’s new play is directed by Anna Himali Howard with Izzy Rabey and was developed as part of an Introduction to Playwriting group at the Royal Court. Winner of the 2022 Ambassador Theatre Group Playwright’s Prize in association with Platform Presents. Graceland is a co-production with SISTER.
Tickets and further information is available here.