For The Grace of You Go I is both entertaining and slightly unsettling. Although originally set to be staged in the spring of 2020, watching this show through the lens of having experienced a pandemic only enhances its slightly satirical and cutting commentary on the modern world and its injustices.
This show is centred around a man named Jim (Rhodri Meilir) who takes a job adding meat to Mazio’s artisan pizzas via a government scheme to provide work for people with mental illnesses. We see Jim struggle to hit targets under the watchful eye of Irina (Remy Beasley), and instead start sending out messages through the arrangement of meat on the pizzas. [AC1] We meet Mark (Darren Jeffries) at a film night for those with poor mental health, during which he recommends the film ‘I Hired a Contract Killer’. The rest of the play starts to blend both reality and the film in a surreal way as Jim struggles with his dead-end life and seeks a way to end it with Mark’s help.
Rhodri plays his character excellently, shifting in an instant from happy to tortured. He lets us into his internal world so well, that by the end it is heart-wrenching to see Jim asking Mark to help kill him as I feel such sympathy for him. The use of cameras and screens projecting minor movements and internal worlds of characters throughout really emphasises these subtle shifts in emotions, reflecting the fragility of mental health in such a poignant way. Alongside this, Beasley and Jeffries manage the dialogue skillfully and with great comedic timing, helping to lighten the mood when needed.
James Grieve and Jacob Hughes direct and stage this play most strikingly. Through the multimedia staging we get an insight into the indignity that is placed on marginalised communities, exploitation within work schemes, and the brushing off of mental health with campaigns that people think can fix the problem. What sticks with me the most is the perfect blending of Jim’s mental illness, Depersonalisation, within the set design and direction. Jim states at one point, “I’m in this movie but I’ve got to build the set. I’m in a scene but also watching the scene…” Throughout, we see him watching and trying to direct himself to act normal and with feeling; the audience watch his reality and his inner world and at times see what he sees through his camera lens vision. The surreal aspects of the play feed well into this experience as they adds a layer of disconnect between us and reality, which Jim is experiencing through Depersonalisation.
Through subtle satire and modern issues, this play is current and enjoyable. It is laced with full circle moments, such as the ending: the audience is being filmed watching Mark, just as Jim explains that he looked at his mother as if through a film camera when she died, making it both memorable and unsettling. I will say this play is very quiet if you are a headphone user but, apart from that, this is an engaging play that is a really important commentary on our modern world and mental illness.
For The Grace of You Go I was available online until 14 July 2021. For more information visit Theatr Clwyd’s website.