Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

07/03/2024 - 10/03/2024

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2024

Production Details

Created by Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken
Director - Eleanor Bishop

Adapted from the book Aliens & Anorexia by Chris Kraus
by Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken

Almost flawless – Adam NZ Play Awards Panel

Everybody fails, sometimes spectacularly. But not everyone has the courage to tell the world about it.

Gravity & Grace is a smart new production by Bruce Mason Playwriting Award-winning duo Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken based on a thrilling autobiographical fiction by acclaimed feminist writer Chris Kraus.

Brimming with intellect, humour and rich visuals, the show follows Kraus through the production of an ill-fated film in Auckland in the 90s, her bold move to punk New York in the 70s, and to a disastrous appearance at a Berlin film market. Along the way, she has encounters with some of the greatest artists and philosophers of the 20th century.

See this daring, fiercely funny and captivating production at its world premiere this Festival.

The development of Gravity & Grace was supported by Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts and Auckland Arts Festival.

There is a post-show talk on Saturday 9 March.

There is a Choose Your Price Kōwhiria Tō Utu session on Sunday 10 March at 2pm. Book here.

Ka taka tātou katoa, ērangi kāore te nuinga mō te whakapāho i aua heke.

Koia tēnei ko te whakaaturanga toi whakaari o Gravity and Grace, he urutaunga nō te pukapuka o Aliens & Anorexia Chris Kraus.

He mea hanga a Gravity and Grace e te tokorua nei e Eleanor Bishop rāua ko Karin McCracken. He mea hanga i runga i te haukiri paki a te kaikōkiri mana wahine nei a Chris Kraus.

CIRCA One, Circa Theatre

7 March 2024  6:30pm
8 March 2024  8pm
9 March 2024  4pm
10 March 2024  6:30pm


Nī Dekkers-Reihana, Simon Leary, Karin McCracken, Sam Snedden, Rongopai Tickell

Performance Designer
Meg Rollandi

Video Designer
Owen Iosefa McCarthy

Video Programmer
Rachel Neser (Artificial Imagination)

Composer and Sound Designer
Emi 恵美 Pogoni

Light Designer
Rob Larsen

Stage Manager & Show Operator
Natasha Thyne

AV Operator
Rachel Neser

Production Management
Pilot Productions

Melanie Hamilton

Theatre ,

2hrs 30mins

A triumphant portrayal of failure

Review by Max Rashbrooke 09th Mar 2024


Make a comment

Refreshing and reassuring insights into fallible humanity superbly presented

Review by John Smythe 08th Mar 2024

Chris Kraus is probably best known as the New York-based writer whose epistolary novel I Love Dick (1997) was described by The Guardian as “a cult feminist classic”. According to her Wikipedia page, I Love Dick, Aliens & Anorexia (2000) and Torpor (2006) “form a loose trilogy that navigates between autobiography, fiction, philosophy, and art criticism … Her approach to writing has been described as ‘performance art within the medium of writing’ and ‘a bright map of presence’.”

Born in The Bronx, Kraus spent some of her childhood in New Zealand.  Before she became a book writer, she was an artist and alternative film-maker of sorts. Eight short films and videos preceded her first (and only) feature, Gravity & Grace (1996), a New Zealand/USA/Canada co-production shot mostly in Auckland and also New York (see Footnote). It was an abject failure and her experience of trying to make it is at the core of Aliens & Anorexia.  

Creating a major theatre work by adapting an obscure book about a film-making disaster, and co-opting the failed film’s title for it, does not leap out as a great idea. But when EBKM – Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken – are at the helm, my attention is grabbed, my interest is piqued and a frisson of intrigue zings through me – with good reason, I’m happy to say.

Credited as co-creators, Eleanor Bishop is also the Director while Karin McCracken channels Chris Kraus with compelling equanimity. A stellar cast playing multiple other roles – more on them in a moment. The ingeniously conceived staging is created by Performance Designer Meg Rollandi, Video Designer Owen Iosefa McCarthy, Video Programmer Rachel Neser, Composer and Sound Designer Emi 恵美 Pogoni and Light Designer Rob Larsen. Stage Manager & Show Operator Natasha Thyne and AV Operator Rachel Neser bring it all to fruition on the night. Producer Melanie Hamilton and Production Manager Khalid Parker have ensured it all comes together seamlessly.

The conceptual and physical anchor point for the multi-focused elements that coalesce as Gravity & Grace the play, is Chris Kraus’s desk in The Hamptons, where she is writing Aliens & Anorexia. What plays out as it’s brought to life through live performance, and live and recorded video imagery, is wide-ranging. Multiple characters and stories intersect with artistic and philosophical discourse – sometimes clear, sometimes opaque – filtered through the subjective, self-effacing, critically observant and sometimes wickedly creative viewpoint of Chris Kraus.

Performers Nī Dekkers-Reihana, Simon Leary, Sam Snedden and Rongopai Tickell manifest it all with deceptive ease. Counter-culture luminaries encountered include US pop artist Andy Warhol (Snedden); German political journalist turned Red Army activist Ulrike Meinhof (Dekkers-Reihana); French philosopher, mystic and political activist Simone Weil (whose anorexia may have been an anti-war protest); and outlier NYC painter, sculptor and installation artist Paul Thek (Leary).

All four also play a rich array of incidental roles that manifest Chris Kraus’s relationships, as well as managing impressive camera work, a sophisticated overhead projector and furniture-moving. Snedden contrasts Sylvère Lotringer, Kraus’s husband for a decade and ‘co-parent’ of their adored dog, with her long-distance S&M phone lover ‘Gavin’. (Having scoffed at Freud’s bizarre claims about female sexuality in my review of blackpill, it’s a shock to see McCracken portray Kraus’s masochism, albeit imagined, so sensuously.)

Amid all this, most compelling for me is the gradually unfolding trainwreck of the Gravity & Grace film production. The whole cast replicates the dynamics of a film shoot with unnerving accuracy. Leary’s 1st AD is instantly recognisable; Dekkers-Reihana’s increasingly frustrated DOP, Colleen, is extremely relatable; Snedden does double duty as a long-suffering producer and bewildered actor …

In the complex and volatile role of the delusional, deluding and elusive Delphine Bower (fictionalised, I presume), Rongopai Tickell is extraordinary. As she inveigles her way from runner to co-producer, her interactions with McCracken’s Krause and other crew members are mesmerising.

The way all five actors bring total conviction to each beat and moment, as four of them flip in and out of their various roles, donning distinctive wigs like character masks, offers a masterclass in performance skills. This world-class cast and director, like those in Our Own Little Mess two weeks ago, are stunningly accomplished in meeting the exacting challenges of this production.

The visual technology is also superbly handled, always supporting and never overshadowing the human stories. Of special note is the way live action shots are framed alongside replays of the original film. There is a special delight in seeing Jennifer Ludlam, the late Alan Brunton and a number of other familiar, if eerily youthful, faces on screen.

As a dramatised treatise on surviving failure and finding your own distinctive voice, Gravity & Grace resonates well beyond the esoteric artistic and intellectual sectors it portrays. Abandon yourself to the experience – you’ll be surprised how effortlessly it all comes together. Its insights into fallible humanity are somehow refreshing and reassuring.

IMDb website describes Gravity & Grace as a sci-fi film that follows Grace as she finds a connection to a cult predicting doomsday and the arrival of a spaceship, and Gravity, who flees New Zealand to try her luck as an artist in New York City.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council