Brisbane Arts Theatre’s production of Hannie Rayson’s Falling from Grace is a hit and miss affair. The play, with often strident statements about women’s rights and an episodic structure of constant scene changes, has a dated feel to it. (But it should be noted that the scene changes were executed excellently and were unobtrusive.)
The direction, by Jo Peirce, is often static, with many scenes involving people just sitting and talking, but the performances of Susan O’Toole as the pregnant magazine reporter Janet Brock, and 15-year-old Hannah Perkins, added moments of reality and light. Both actors were outstanding and well worth a night in the theatre to watch.
Sharon White as Maggie Campbell, the magazine sub-editor, and Sandra Ferlito as Suzannah Brompton, the editor, worked well and, despite having little to do but spout technical jargon, Sandra Harmon as Dr Miriam Roth was a convincing research scientist. The main problem was that none of the magazine workers ever sounded like the great friends they purported to be. There was no warmth between them, no sense of camaraderie.
The actors worked solo rather than as a team. Hannah Perkins was the only real exception in the play. As the daughter of Suzannah Brompton and her long divorced husband Hugh Story (James Fitzgerald) she was wonderful as a teenager torn between two parents. She produced the warmth needed for any friendly relationship.
The plot line sees Dr Roth creating a new drug that helps women who suffer from PMS. Hugh Story believes the drug deforms foetuses. Janet Brock is writing a backgrounder on Dr Roth, but Hugh Story is trying to convince his ex-wife to run his story. To confound issues Dr Roth’s husband Michael Beresinski (Stephen Dunn) is having an affair with Suzannah Brompton.
There is enough conflict in the play to make for razor-edged tension, but apart from sections in Act 2, they didn’t materialise often enough. This is mainly because the male roles are weak, in script and, on opening night, in acting too. Both men often looked extremely uncomfortable on stage, hands in and out of pockets, on and off hips, with wooden stances and often inarticulate line delivery. Luckily, despite the failings, the women were sparky enough to bring the play to life, particularly in the second act.