Broken - Underground Productions

‘Broken’ // Underground Productions

‘Broken’ was infallible.

Cancel your plans for the weekend (or add this show to your Saturday night pub crawl) because Underground Productions’ latest drama ‘Broken’ absolutely cannot be missed.

Bringing Mary Anne Butler’s sensational work to life at BackDock Arts, ‘Broken’ follows the stories of a young university student in a car accident, a wife experiencing a traumatic miscarriage and the broken man that ties the two together. Set in the central Northern Territory desert, this production will make audiences question chances, choices, hope and fate. 

Mary Anne Butler is an award-winning playwright living in the heart of the Northern Territory. Her script ‘Broken’ was the winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Drama, the 2014 Northern Territory Literary Award for Best Script and the 2016 Victorian Prize for Literature. Her hour-long heart-wrenching drama was inspired by Butler’s love of highways and landscapes, and a real-life incident. It’s safe to say, her story leaves audiences intrigued and wanting to know more about the shambolic lives of Butler’s characters. 

Melanie Bolovan plays Ash, the strong-headed university student and recent car crash victim. Despite being a relative newcomer to the theatre scene, Bolovan’s performance exceeds expectations, producing a complex and well-formed character. Her talent and ability to capture an audience is unparalleled. She is definitely one to watch out for.

Geena Schwartz takes on the challenging task of Mia, the alcohol-abusing mother-to-be. With a Bachelor’s of Acting and Performance from Canberra University under her belt, Schwartz was able to create a character that was, in all its essence, a beautiful catastrophe. She brought astounding professionalism to this gut-wrenching and heartwarming production and was absolutely encapsulating.

Ham, the broken man sandwiched within this story, was played by the extremely talented Kian Jones. This Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Business and Commerce student started his theatrical journey in school and has moved from strength to strength, with credits including ‘Hamlet’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Crucible’. It was clear he was well acquainted with the art of beautiful tragedies. Jones had a wealth of intelligence, which came to life in his performance.

A lot of credit for the success of this amazing work can be attributed to the show’s skilful direction by Row Blackshaw. Blackshaw is an experienced director, with credits including ‘Robert Smith’ for La Boite Theatre Company, ‘Rock On’ for Footlights Theatrical and ‘Greetings from Yeppoon’ for Short + Sweet Theatre Festival. Her excellent choice in casting created a solid foundation for the production. Despite the ever-changing storyline, Blackshaw was able to stage the production in such a way that allowed the show to transition naturally. Using the seamless movements of actors, the blocking flowed and the storyline continued with the correct amount of tension.  

As a result, the extremely complicated story was easy to understand. At points, the script jumped through time, weaving storylines, however, the action flowed continuously. There were no breaks in tension and no moments where the audience could disconnect from the show. Blackshaw was able to contrast the relationships between characters and leave the audience asking the question – what would they do in a similar circumstance? It was completely encapsulating and whole –  from its pace and timing to its rhythm and mood. 

Attention to detail was also portrayed in Blackshaw’s commitment to using the venue to symbolise time and place within the script. The seating used was a mixture of car and bus seats, which created an immersive environment. Through Blackshaw’s staging of ‘Broken’, it is clear she is an emerging talent who simply cannot be ignored. 

Set design by Freya Hoareau was stagnant and emulated an Australian Outback culture, with Indigenous printed designs, timber, rusted corrugated tin, red dust and desert palms. The lighting design by Madeline Border saturated the set in deep and  bright shades of orange, drawing in the warmth one would expect of a Northern Territory setting. At times, the lighting brightened to reflect what was happening to a character and then darkened in points where characters experienced extreme trauma. This perfectly reflected the mood onstage and aided in creating dramatic tension. 

Sound design by Aaron Griffiths, with operation by Henry Friend, added natural tension, even going to the lengths of playing Australian native sounds which helped the audience to be wholly immersed in the world of the play. Other effects, like low rumbling sounds, added gradual and increasing tension as the script required. They blended seamlessly into the show to the point that you would almost miss them unless you were actively listening. 

The meticulous design and execution of this production were extremely evident and as such the production cannot be faulted. ‘Broken’ was professional and well-presented, and a prime example of some of the best pre-professional theatre in Brisbane. Audiences need to see the show while they still can.

‘Broken’ performs until Saturday, 7 March 2020 at BackDock Arts. To buy tickets visit Ticket Tailor – Broken.

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