Grief Lightning Review


As almost any Arts, English or Film major will tell you, the chances of using Milton to debunk a Grease Lightning theory beyond the classroom are slim to none. To which, many typically respond with something like ‘first, that’s a very specific thing to say, and second, well, obviously’. Unless, of course, you are the brilliant wonder that is Mary Angley.

Mary Angley in Grief Lightning, 2022. Photo: Jamois ©

Helmed by its sole creator and, no less, projection designer, Grief Lightning journeys through a sequence of popular Grease fan theories, dissecting lyrics, plot, and characters all in name of answering the question – what really happened to Sandy that day on the beach? A feat you’d think best left for Reddit boards and that one lecturer that leaves you questioning how an entire faculty is dedicated to practices such as this. Nonetheless, it is Angley’s (and our) desperate search for meaning where there is none that transforms these ‘hot-sexy theories’ of gender, semiotics, and liminality into existential resolution.

Rumpus and the audience itself are a prop in Angley’s mad-hour-spiel, as the line between student/viewer and teacher/performer wears ever-thin. Their script, performance and projections are a masterclass in that sweet classic brand of ironic v. sincere humour, culminating in the effect of poking at theatre and academia as though they were inextricably Linked.

Mary Angley in Grief Lightning, 2022. Photo: Jamois ©

The near-stark set, combined with a simple wardrobe that is, I only hope, a nod to David Byrne’s straight-suit, bare-foot combo, Angley’s ‘lecturer’ fills the space with such ease you forget there is just one person standing before you. Their ever-ascending descent into dramatic monologues that border on tear-jerking as much as they do plain ridiculous, is a marathon. With each new detail and each new character Angley realises builds to crescendos of waning emotions of desire, love, and loss, that are tossed away with a quick ‘yeah, so anyway, next theory’.

‘To watch the film on the pleb tier’ is no option for Angley. No doubt, Grief Lightning is a study of the nature of Western pop culture, as much as it is of the instinct in us all to seek answers from that which we see ourselves within, the one which makes us ask, on what planet does a car drive into the sunset and it not all be a dream?

All to be said, of course, this is a show to be taken as seriously as a Grease Lightning fan theory.

4.5 Stars 

Tiah, 22 (She/Her)

Grief Lightning by papermouth theatre showed at RUMPUS Theatre in Adelaide from 19th – 30th April 2022.