Broken, by Mary Anne Butler | Directed by Shannon Murphy

Darlinghurst Theatre Company (http://www.darlinghursttheatre.com) | Eternity Theatre, Darlinghurst, Sydney | Until 28 August

Broken characters, physically and emotionally. Broken relationships. Broken timelines.

Darkness descends and I’m immediately taken to a country evening: stillness, cicadas and starlight. Rarriwuy Hick, as Ash, enters and takes to her microphone, centre stage. She talks me through the experience of her car rolling on a desert highway, as it happens, time slowing as it does in an accident, so she can capture each and every sensation, every motion. It doesn’t happen on stage, it happens in my imagination, richly and vividly.

Ivan Donato, as Ham, the miner, finds her in the darkness and stays with her to comfort her through the night until help arrives. Ivan, stage left, clicks a pen by his side and we hear the ticking of the cooling motor.

Sarah Enright, as Ham’s wife Mia, completes the triad stage right.

Each actor embraces the poetry of the piece, working with the lyricism of the text to tell their story and convey the emotion of their character.

“I can hear the stars falling.”

But they are not just talking heads. The words are tinged with their facial expressions, their gestures, their movements – Mia doubled over in pain, Ham cradling Ash, Mia and Ham facing off.

Mary Anne Butler’s multi-award-winning play presents these fractures in a most intriguing and riveting way – it could be described as a poem, a radio play, performance art, or interacting monologues. Actually, it’s all of the above, using live and recorded sounds, lighting, microphones, voices, faces to give us moments in time that create a whole. But I have to work to cobble it together, to weave together the threads of the characters’ past, present and future.

And because of that I am thankful that it’s only an hour long. Any longer would have been exhausting. Broken takes my attention from the instant it begins and holds it until the final applause. I feel that I live the years spanned by the play, while at the same time it seems to be over in a moment.

Director Shannon Murphy has faithfully rendered Butler’s poetic storytelling in partnership with these finely-tuned actors and the talented production team. “Lucky” is a motif running throughout the play, and I feel very lucky to have experienced it.

Thumbs up.