Monday, 26 January 2009


Noni Hazlehurst in GraceGrace is the latest production from the Melbourne Theatre Company, telling the story of Grace Freeman, an atheist scientist whose son announces that he wishes to become an Anglican priest.

On the surface this seems a pat set-up for the usual Dawkinsian science vs. religion arguments. And while they do get an airing, the play is about much more than that.

There’s nothing new in any of the arguments portrayed: they’re the usual suspects regularly trotted out on the interwebs, in print and from the pulpit (religion is irrational / atheism is narrow-minded / religion brings death and destruction / science can say nothing about the divine).

Grant Cartwright & Leah VandenbergBut quite deliberately, the writers of Grace have only lightly touched upon the debate, and allowed themselves space to make a much deeper point: that when it comes to our human relationships, the way we interact and the way we communicate, these things eventually stop being important.

At some point, being right doesn’t matter so much as being compassionate.

And getting so tied up in the debate that you miss that point can lead to real tragedy.

Brian Lipson & Noni Hazlehurst

While the script seems clunky in parts (although that may have been the actors struggling with some of the technical and very fast dialogue), Noni Hazlehurst steals the show as fiery fem-Dawkins Grace and is well-supported by the small cast, particularly Leah Vandenberg as her pious son’s girlfriend.

Grace is essential viewing for anyone interested in the continuing debate on the influence of religion in our lives, and also highly recommended for anyone who thinks we’re all taking it a bit too seriously.

4 out of 5