Review: Fracture – Old Fitz Theatre, Sydney (Performances until August 12)

I find Mario Kart so ruthless and stressful that, emotionally, I can’t reach the end of Rainbow Road without shedding some real-life baggage. That’s the game Charlie (Brandon McClelland) is playing with flat-mates Clara (Contessa Treffone) and Tommy (Tel Benjamin), literally and metaphorically, in their rundown Perthian apartment. Whatever he’s trying to shed, they seem to be helping until his wife arrives from the other side of the country to bring him back home.

What plagues Charlie’s dreams, we find out, is Grace (Kate Cheel) accidently leaving their baby in a filling tub. Though not nearly the whole story, it begins to explain why he left six months ago, and what might be marauding his mind.

Pretty serious for 10pm on a weekday. Thankfully, whenever Charlie has a nightmare, his flat-mates swoop in like a gust of who-gives-a-shit. That’s the basic narrative rhythm – swinging between torture and breeziness – and it rests on the exact comic timing and fumbling verisimilitude of Treffone and Benjamin.

Kate Cheel, Brandon McClelland - Michael Francis, Francis Fotography
Kate Cheel, Brandon McClelland

Where it falters, perhaps, is some of the dialogue between McClelland and Cheel alone. Often it’s very good – both performers, despite their age, have a worrying aptitude for world-weariness. I’m referring to the scenes that depend, unnecessarily, on unfinished sentences and tormented declarations of love. A lack of communication is not the same as clichéd and stilted conversation and it undermines the play’s expressionistic flair.

No such problems with the set — a kaleidoscope of dusty windows and tiles in the form of a rundown bathroom. That’s quickly spun into nightmare by Thomas Walsh’s dreamy-purple light and Michael Toisuta’s eerie sound (and a steam machine).  It’s a perfect manifestation of those mind-marauders I was talking about, and pretty impressive considering it’s not their set. It was designed by Jonathan Hindmarsh for the earlier, main stage show, Low Level Panic. A bathroom of all things.

It’s not that surprising; putting on a show is hard, and luck is always a welcome collaborator. Fracture might not be perfect, but writer/director Lucy Clements has made something smart and challenging about today that you can feel without being lectured to. That’s pretty rare. She got lucky with the cast too, who show something more than promise.

The way I see it, you can go to the Sydney Theatre Company, pay upwards of 70 dollars and see a play well-staged about whatever was going on fifty or more years ago, or you can pay 25 dollars at the Old Fitz, see a play about what’s going on now, starring the future of Australian theatre. Try Low Level Panic as well, let me know how it is. The Old Fitz is also a bar, by the way. You can spend your savings on beer.

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Fracture is currently playing at The Old Fitz Theatre until Ausgust 12. For more information and tickets head here.

Photos by  Michael Francis, Francis Fotography