Graceless III

Posted in Audio by - March 14, 2018
Graceless III

Released June 2013

Still reeling from the dramatic events of series two that squarely brought the consequences of past actions to the forefront, the emotional adventures of the powerful and well-intentioned but naïve and impulsive sisters, Abby and Zara, continue in the third series of Graceless.

Abby’s search through time and space takes her to a hotel on a cliff overlooking the sea in ‘The Edge’ where Zara has taken up residence and spends her days emptily staring out over the water with no memories of her past until Abby nears. In a place where the two sisters are hardly the only ones with secrets and running from their past, Zara takes a keen interest in staff member Kurt who is all too keen to deflect any attention back onto Zara, and Miss Simone proves remarkably adept at realising and understanding the nuanced relationship that Abby has with her sister and the complex emotions stemming from just how they came to be here. Joe Coen and Sunny Ormonde give strong performances in these two supporting roles, and the inclusion of Tim Bentinck’s Albert and Paul Copley’s Dennis allows this confined environment to truly come to life as danger escalates and Kurt is murdered while the sisters realize that they are still just as easily influenced by others as ever.

Writer Simon Guerrier has never been afraid to subvert expectations surrounding the big set pieces within Graceless, and the quickly-spreading fire that threatens Albert’s life and soon enough everyone else’s is no exception. With an ominous silhouette and voice in the flames, this is a wonderful chance for both Zara and Abby to show their heroic tendencies and the sense of compassion and empathy they have developed for others as they’ve continued to interact with the universe around them. The truth behind the connection to life and death and the need to willingly accept the latter over the former is revealed to remarkably strong effect and expertly puts all of the characters into a new context that adds an extra poignancy to everything that has come before it. Wonderfully explaining the melodrama and portentously hinting at the oncoming storm of consequences yet to confront the sisters and universe at large, the events on this edge of oblivion form a remarkably character-driven and moving opening to this set that looks to both the past and the future successfully.

On the ninth of August, 991 AD, Abby and Zara are on the Essex coast in the rain in ‘The Battle,’ once more searching for the man they both loved and lost. With the Battle of Maldon looming as the brave local earl is ready to wage battle against the savage pirates waiting just across the water to free his people from their constant fear, Abby and Zara learn just how much more there is to lose even with future history already written. The two have always had an innate desire to belong somewhere, and this village serves as another fitting location for the two to connect with individuals and try their best to help out in ways that only they can. Unfortunately, for beings with near-godlike powers, that desire to do good is far too ambitious in its scope with disastrous consequences, and a failed suggestion that the earl give the Vikings food and gold to alleviate their suffering and to see them on their way soon gives rise to increasingly elaborate revisions of time until the Vikings are vanquished and the resulting implications become the focus to keep the villagers alive against increasing odds.

This malleable approach to history is balanced out with the sisters’ visit to the largest known repository of books and knowledge, a collection that is disappearing at an alarming rate thanks to the actions of Abby and Zara that have torn the fabric of time itself. Geraldine James gives an understated but authoritative performance as the archivist, Chi, who soon comes to realise that even her continued existence is but a memory the sisters are maintaining, and she effectively provides a frame of reference regarding the fated battle through her intimate knowledge of the time and the surviving epic poem describing it. Indeed, the descriptions both of the warriors and of the battle itself are deeply poetic, and this contrasts well with the brutality and inevitability of war that eventually pervades the piece. As Chi’s involvement becomes ever more personal and the internal battle of saving individuals versus all of time rages in her as well, the story takes on an even more intimate tone with an outsider experiencing the angst of the sisters who only want to do good, effectively wrapping up a bittersweet and evocative tale of choice and repercussion as the flow of time continues undeterred.

Told that their beloved Marek is alive and their next meeting will coincide with their deaths, Abby and Zara return to the planet of ‘The Flood’ to reconnect with Wing and Brondle who are embroiled in personal issues and the appearance of an insurance agent named Marek in ‘Consequences.’ Of the many characters introduced over the course of Graceless, Wing and Brondle are unquestionably amongst the most memorable and well-developed, and Joanna Van Gyseghem and Michael Cochrane easily bring the caring couple to life once more, this time as they cope with financial burdens and Wing’s progressive mental deterioration. This latter aspect forms an immensely personal core for the story, primarily as the two have accepted Wing’s condition before being offered what ultimately amounts to false hope due to the good intentions of the sisters who care about these people so dearly. Knowing that any attempt to rectify the mental condition could result in the Wing they know being lost forever, the fruitless search for a cure takes Abby and Zara back to the Archive where they learn there is something wrong with the sun and hear once more that going back to the planet will result in their death.

Accordingly, ‘Consequences’ is very much a story with a known end since it has been established that Abby and Zara much choose to die, and the reintroduction of a Marek who does not know the sisters but quickly comes to understand just how intimately their lives have been intertwined brings a nice sense of closure to all of the preceding series as well. Although Zara is quick to point out that she liked Marek more as a dangerous rogue than this proper man in a suit, a fact that still makes no sense given their early past together, the Marek presented here is honest and caring, and in his own way he may represent a positive consequence of the sisters’ action even with the loss of so much associated with it. He understands the situation and is keen to help the sisters discover the truth while providing them a unique perspective, and the sisters accept death as a solution to serve the greater good when they learn that they are to blame for the anomaly that threatens the stability of the sun. Neatly tying in the memorable creatures from ‘The Flood’ and offering both Wing and Brondle the happiest ending available after a poignant discussion about death and living without love, Abby and Zara come to understand their role for the Grace and the perspective that they also provided, resulting in the sun being saved as a gift to them as they surprisingly resume an ordinary life with Marek in tow.

This third series is easily the strongest collection of stories that Graceless has yet offered. While there is plenty of potential for continuing adventures for the sisters within these new confines, this serves as a poignant finale in its own right and aptly signals- perhaps a bit too neatly- an end to the choices and consequences that have accompanied the searches for self, purpose, and belonging that have so pervaded the adventures and misadventures of Abby and Zara who have learned so much through their successes and mistakes along the way. Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington continue to excel with immense chemistry, and the direction and sound design are as strong as always, and this amplified morality play across three stories is a standout success for a range that has finally found its voice.

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