Sunday, July 31, 2016

Broken by Mary Anne Butler

Broken by Mary Anne Butler.  Darlinghurst Theatre Company at Eternity Playhouse, July 29 – August 28, 2016.

Directed by Shannon Murphy.

Designers: Production – Sophie Fletcher; Lighting – Ben Brockman; Composer and Sound – James Brown.

Cast: Ivan Donato – Ham; Sarah Enright – Mia; Rarriwuy Hick – Ash.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
July 30

The story of Broken is simple. 

Ash rolls her Troopie into scrub in Central Australia, at night. 

Ham, a mining engineer on his way home to his wife, Mia, near Alice Springs, sees the skid marks and the rolled vehicle, calls for an ambulance on his CB radio, rescues and comforts Ash for the hours it takes for the medical team to arrive.  He arrives home with Ash’s dog, killed in the crash, at dawn.

But the full story is much more complex.  It is revealed as each of the three describe what they feel, physically and mentally, from the moment of the crash through to the day a year later when Ash has recovered and goes to find Ham. 

The telling is done in about an hour over microphones incorporating sound effects made by the actors, and with a background distant soundscape.  The speaking is often quiet and intense.

The most fascinating aspect of the storytelling is how the three voices are separate strands which are woven together until their three stories become one.  The effect is mesmerising, especially because of the voicing skills that these three actors display.  And the writing slowly establishes not just a plot of what has happened but an interweaving of three personalities and how they deal with their experiences.

Broken could perhaps be performed on radio, but I found watching the physical process of the speaking and the making of the sound effects live took on a theatrical life of its own and intensified the emotional strength of the work.

I have also seen an earlier play by this author, Highway of Lost Hearts, (reviewed on this blog August 29, 2014) which she has adapted for radio, and her writing has now won significant awards.  Broken  confirms  Mary Anne Butler’s valued place as an Australian playwright finding new ways of telling our stories.