Drama Studio, University of Auckland, Auckland

04/10/2007 - 07/10/2007

Production Details

Written and directed by Sophie Dingemans

Producer, set, sound and costume design: Sophie Dingemans
Lighting design: Borris Williams
Technical assistance by sound engineer Dave Holmes

What would you give up for love?

A new play, Grace traces the extraordinary steps her great-grandmother went to in the name of true love.

Set in London in 1907, Grace is a drama of deception and faith, an exploration of profound sacrifice, tragedy, and self belief. Named after her great-grandmother, Sophie’s play is not only the major creative project for her masters degree, it is also the realisation of a childhood dream: to create a performance telling the extraordinary story of her great-grandparents’ love.

Since being told the story as a child by her mother, Sophie has long been intrigued by her great-grandmother’s life-changing decision to follow her heart. As she runs for election to the London County Council, Grace must confront the rising conflict between her drive to make a better world for others and her desire to create a better world for herself. The play examines why Grace committed such an extreme act against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London and the politics and personalities of Fabian socialism.

“When I began writing Grace I had a few thrilling facts about my great-grandparents’ scandalous love story; in performance I have created a world in which the challenges and excitement of their love for each other unfolds,” says Sophie. “Theirs is a story which reassures and reaffirms that to have faith in love, to give in to love, is a faith worthy of taking life-altering risks for.”

Grace will be performed at
8pm, Thursday-Sunday, 4-6 October and
4pm, Sunday 7 October
at The University of Auckland Drama Studio (14 Symonds St, Level 3, Arts 1 Building).
Tickets: $15 adults/$10 students.
For bookings phone (09) 373 7599 ext 84226.

Nicci Reuben
Simon Ward
Rachel Somerfield
Michael Downey
Andrew Waterson

Theatre ,

Timeless Edwardian love story

Review by Nik Smythe 06th Oct 2007

Grace is the theatrical realisation of a family legend that writer, director, producer, set, sound and costume designer Sophie Dingemans has lived with her whole life.  Told to her by her mother since she was a child, this production fulfils her childhood vision of telling her grandparents’ story in performance.

Watching the story’s pivotal events in the lives of Grace, her husband Harold, her sister Amber and the eligible Dr Reeves, we can see it’s a tale that warrants the effort: a true-life epic romance where love’s passion is ultimately deemed the most valid truth to live by.

Nicci Reuben’s Grace is astute and forthright. Toiling for the right of all children to freely become responsible adults, Grace is more at ease with her arguments for the emancipation of the underprivileged and downtrodden than with any personal issues such as her own marriage. 

As Grace’s husband Harold, Simon Ward paints an unfortunate picture of a politically allied and mutually passionate, but emotionally and sexually estranged partner.  Amber’s character, played by Rachel Somerfield, illustrates the sassy kind of unapologetic womanhood that ultimately drives the suffragette movement forward in these tempestuous Edwardian times. 

In a handful of incidental roles such as angry heckler, shocked partisan and bigoted famous writer H.G. Wells, Michael Downey ably supports and antagonises the four main characters. 

Admittedly for a while I was left a little cold with the dated and done-to-death politics, until the arrival of forward thinking socialist physician Doctor Walter Reeves (Andrew Waterson), who’s very existence as the idealistic picture of everything a woman might hope a man to be in this or any other age throws Grace into an irreconcilable dilemma, placing her invaluable humanitarian work up against her own personal happiness and emotional and sexual fulfillment.  

Sophie Dingemans’ engaging, fertile script carries the actors through a sometimes inspired, other times somewhat muddled production and performance.  The chemistry between Grace and Walter is well expressed and thankfully so, as the backbone of the story relies fundamentally upon it.  Each actor finds the essence of their character in at least some of their scenes, but overall the direction seems patchy.  The taking of tea isn’t convincingly English, and there are scenes which give the impression they simply haven’t been worked as much as others.  The strongest theatrical effects come from the abstract expressionist music interludes and transitional scenes, rather than in any authentic detail of the time period. 

Sound design, arranged by Dingemans with the technical assistance of renowned sound engineer Dave Holmes, comes courtesy of a band from the States called Rachel’s.  The eclectic strains of classical and synth stylings match the desperate tones of the protagonist’s plight.  Borris Williams’ lighting design seems mainly perfunctory, and in some of the transcendental expressionist scenes might have enhanced the work with clearer definition. 

Dingemans’ barefooted costume design creates a definite sense of the time while evoking the sense of those plays we put on as children, with our siblings and cousins at family gatherings.  The women are elegantly represented, whereas the male characters seem less immaculate, with the exception of Downey’s truly spivvy Wells.

It is really an honour and a privilege to witness the development of such a timeless love story as it explodes forth from a child’s soul and the imagination of a woman still moved by it one hundred years after the fact.  


Anneliese Kuegler October 7th, 2007

It is my opinion that the message of the play is that one's personal happiness is the most valid truth to live by and in by doing so the most profound way to influence the world. In the case of Gace it was love and passion that offered the promise of true happiness. This is a well written play and this reviewer has summed it up very nicely.

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