Review by Taylor Kendal
It’s common enough for movies to have deeper meanings, to be more than just an enjoyable pastime made to entertain. But what if a movie that has been beloved for over forty years, with timeless songs and can be quoted from opening line to end, isn’t what it appears to be. Instead of a fun, catchy teen musical about young love and cool cars, had a darker, almost sinister undertone?
Since 1978, the movie Grease has become a favourite amongst generations. It’s fun and familiar soundtrack, and quotable script about the story of Danny and Sandy, and their Summer love once they meet up at school. It is the quintessential image of idealised teenage romance in an era where things seemed to be a lot cleaner and simpler. However, in more recent years, the plot of the film has become the subject of scrutiny, that maybe things aren’t as cookie cutter as many people believe. Thus brings forward Grief Lighting: A Satire in 78 Slides by Mary Angley; a deep dive into the depths of the film, and offers controversial ideas that make us doubt all we know; what if the movie was about death and what we experience when we die? What if there is room to argue, that at least one of the protagonists dies at some point in the movie, and this is all a fantasy induced by lack of oxygen and an attempt to make one last happy memory? After all, 44 years later people are still questioning how the hell that car flies off at the end of the movie!
The title itself is a wonderful play on words, and was in fact what drew me to the piece. I do, however, struggle to connect it beyond face value to the content of the show, but it do believe it ultimately serves its purpose.
Mary Angley has created something incredibly unique here. A persona of an academic lecturer, birnign the hard hitting, and potentially upsetting discoveries, that the classic musical film is not what it seems. That there are several theories that can back up this statement with a multitude of evidence that is irrefutable. Using thirteen scenes from the film, and a PowerPoint presentation consisting of 78 slides, Angley is dedicated to the cause to convince the audience of the truth.
Angley is a commanding presence on the stage, right from the very first moment. The intensity of her belief of these truths is commendable. A talent for the spoken word and impeccable delivery of the script, there are moments when she is simply hypnotic; against a screen half shadowed with scenes from the movie. It is incredibly clear how dedicated Angley is to the show; the level of research that must have been undertaken to know key facts and elements about the movie (some of which I had no idea – and I’m a diehard Grease fanatic since birth). The audience would definitely find themselves asking questions, calling on memory of the film and it can, in may moments, cause you to rethink all you knew.
The script is heavily researched and incredibly well written. The arguments put forward do have an insane level of validity, when broken down piece by piece; using sources such as reddit and Wikipedia, as well as quotes and lyrics from the movie that can, at times, bring together each theory in a way that makes it seem like it could, without any way to refute it, be true. There are moments, particularly when Angley is personifying one of the main characters, where the script can get a little confusing, whether that is to do with the language used or the soundtrack becoming rather loud and distorted, but it does have great effect.
One of the best features of the performance is the sound design, by Dan Thorpe. The combination of samples of the movie’s soundtrack, changed up tempo and all manner of sound distortion and effects adds a whole new layer to the show; working heavily with the more sinister messages and creates and wonderfully dark illusion of descent, which fits the theme beautifully. Matched with the at times juxtaposed images from the movie, blended into an incredibly detailed presentation that covers so many points and in-depth details, the creativity and creation of it is in serious need of a round of applause.
Without giving too much away, this show is something that needs to be seen to be believed. The level of depth that is taken into convincing the argument, that the truth is irrefutable and can no longer be denied is exceptional. I had to have a second viewing to try and connect all the dots, giving myself a sense of disbelief for a moment, as I’m still unsure of how i feel about something that for the most part is light-hearted and embedded in so many childhoods. Of course, whether I choose to believe the validity of these claims doesn’t reflect on the excellent execution of the piece, the dedication to the subject matter and the overall creation and presentation. It’s certainly something that will have me thinking for a very long time after.