Review Round Up: Graceland, Royal Court Theatre

We round up the reviews for Ava Wong Davies’s new play, which continues to play at the Royal Court until the 11th March.

(c)Ali Wright

Broadway World: ** “Is it fair to criticise a play for being derivative? Are we really coming to a point where there is nothing new under the sun? It’s nobody’s fault per se, but the fact that Graceland is playing at the Royal Court, an institution that prides itself on its dedication to new writing, ought to account for something.”

The Guardian: *** “The script sounds almost novelistic in its language, beautiful at times. It is clear that Wong Davies is a delicate and thoughtful writer and there is daring in telling this explosive story so quietly.”

The Telegraph: ** “Ava Wong Davies’s 75-minute monologue about love and power is ably delivered by Sabrina Wu, but it smoulders without catching fire.”

The Arts Desk: *** “Wong Davies is an experienced arts writer, and I have enjoyed her piercing theatre reviews in the past, but the over-polished style of Graceland, whose title is a typically puzzling aspect of the show, is emphasised by an aptly cool production by director Anna Himali Howard, with Izzy Rabey. Sabrina Wu’s performance is as low key and subtle as the text itself, creating a sense of dread without histrionics, although Mydd Pharo’s set, a bed surrounded by mounds of mud, is used perhaps too literally to suggest the sensation of being dirtied by experience. But somehow I would have preferred it if the text had been equally mucky, less literary and more direct.”

Time Out: *** “Wong Davies’s script is elegantly lyrical in language and is strongest in its exploration of how the effects of being from different races or classes can reverberate into relationships. But, written in monologue form, and read by one actor (Sabrina Wu) in a largely unchanged tone, it can feel more like a plodding staged reading of a novel. It needs more galvanic drive, and more variety.”

Evening Standard: **** “Wu’s performance is finely modulated and very subtle, slowly stoking a sense of disquiet. Dressed in schlumpy loungewear, she roams Mydd Pharo’s set of a bed on a dais surrounded by banks of mud, getting steadily dirtier. The set is one of the weaker elements here – I’ve also got no idea what the title means – but Jai Morjaria’s lighting is excellent.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “Wu is incredible here, and Ava Wong Davies’ script is subtle and nuanced. But the design and the direction work against them.”

Culture Whisper: *** “Wong Davies is a talented writer, applying the same wit, lyrical flow and all-round easiness with the pen to her playwriting as is enviable in her theatre criticism. But Graceland is too ambiguous a story to pack a proper punch.”

The Stage: **** “Slippery and delicately savage anatomising of an abusive relationship.”

London *** “Davies’s writing is expressive enough not to need all this visual underscoring. Good on the physical details of intimacy, Davies is alive to the separate woes of solitude and togetherness, and the play has a French existentialist feel to its final passage, a commingling of sorts prompted by tears whose eloquent spareness is worthy of Sartre. I was happy to see the play; I’ll be happier still to read it.”

WhatsOnStage: “Davies asks urgent, contemporary questions and if Nina’s most heart-wrenching and personal admissions were sandwiched between more substantial plot points, they’d likely prove more engaging. With this, her character would be more compelling and the play ultimately stronger for that.”

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