In its Sydney Premiere, Broken by Darwin playwright Mary Anne Butler opened last week to a transfixed audience at the Eternity Playhouse. The play has already been highly awarded, and it’s easy to see why.
Butler’s play is a beautiful, complex piece of writing. The story is told through three rich, detailed, intertwining monologues from Ash, Ham and Mia, and provides an all-encompassing experience of what it’s like to live in the isolated top corner of our country.
The play is stylistically abstract, and therefore a challenge for any company to produce. Director Shannon Murphy has conquered this, by putting the emphasis on the words. The setup is a live radio play. Three microphones on stage in front of three actors. There are a few props to aid them, such as twigs and leaves that crunch when walked on, and bubblewrap to evoke the snap and crackle of a campfire. Their world is conjured using only words and sounds. There’s no elaborate set here, no mounds of red dirt, towering gumtrees or remnants of a car crash. It’s all left to our imaginations. It’s delicate and simple, but so effective.
Rarriwuy Hick plays Ash, who’s just been involved in an horrific car accident in the middle of no where. She’s alone, and badly injured. Mercifully, along comes miner Ham (Ivan Donato) to help. It’ll be two hours until the ambulance arrives, so in the meantime Ham pulls Ash from the wreck, talks to her, distracts her from the pain, and slowly but surely they fall in love.
But Ham’s wife Mia, played by Sarah Enright, is at home, having just miscarried their child. She’s distraught, drinking the pain away, waiting for Ham to come home.
All three actors are sublime. Hick is magnetic, and has absolutely mastered the style. Donato finds great warmth as Ham, and his love for Ash is true and intense. As Mia, Enright is completely compelling. The images she paints with her voice are harrowing.
The whole production is completely transfixing and extraordinarily moving. It feels dangerous and organic, unfinished almost as the actors continue to play and evolve. It seems limitless, just like the outback. Butler’s script is intentionally uncomfortable and unforgiving, as it examines fate and raises questions about identity, choice and destiny. Don’t miss this stunning, evocative piece of theatre.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now