Amy King in Gracie
Photo: Veronica Bonderud



Fay Theatre/Excavation Theatre

GRACIE by Joan Macleod

When & Where February 22 – 25, 2024; evenings at 7pm & Sun at 2pm | Vancity Culture Lab, 1895 Venables Street, Vancouver

Director Jessica Anne Nelson Sound Designer Shona Struthers
Costume Designer Amy King Lighting Designer Adam Prokop
Projection Filmmaker Evan Walsh Stage Manager Ivana Franz

Reviewer John Jane

Most British Columbians will have no doubt heard of Bountiful, a settlement in the Creston Valley and roughly five kilometres from the border with the state of Washington. Even if they have never been there, they might have heard about its connection with FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints).

Gracie is a one woman play based on supposed events by British Columbia playwright Joan MacLeod. It centres on the story of Gracie, an eight-year-old girl who travels by road from Utah to BC with her family: a (now) single mother, an older brother and two older sisters. Through Gracie’s naïve central vision, we observe her life through her childhood and adolescent that offers family and faith. Gracie does, however, lack intellect and education that is normal even for a child of her age. She is home-schooled, but not well.

Gracie is nurtured by the community and generally allowed to enjoy her childhood and even generously indulged by her new guardian who she refers to as “Mr. Shelby” despite his having taken her mother as his eighteenth wife – a situation she seems to consider normal.

However, as the play moves along, she becomes more and more separated from close family. Her mother becomes debilitated by difficult pregnancies, her brother Billy leaves the community and her sisters are betrothed to men chosen by the commune. It begins to dawn on her that as she gets closer to her sixteenth birthday, her destiny of being a sister bride in a plural marriage is also meant for her.

Born in small town Saskatchewan, now based in Vancouver, Amy King is regarded as a multi-discipline performance artist. She certainly acquits herself well, single-handedly taking on this demanding title role. Not only does she manage a nuanced performance of a young girl approaching womanhood, but is called upon to adopt the mannerisms and voices of the play’s other character. Ms. King is an extraordinary storyteller.

Director Jessica Anne Nelson also takes responsibility for the black box set design augmented with various sized black boxes that get pushed and dragged around the stage by the performer to serve as furniture and the inside of a vehicle. Nelson employs filmmaker Evan Walsh, whose video follows Amy King’s performance throughout.

Joan MacLeod’s play and Amy King’s performance gives its audience an incredible insight in a culture that is still largely misunderstood.

© 2024 John Jane