At The Broken Places

Joseph Horton
Savio(u)r Theatre Company
Cock Tavern Theatre
(2011)

At The Broken Places production photo

At The Broken Places is a play that I never felt comfortable watching and this is to the company's credit.

Set in 'Sierra High School' the students and staff are approaching an anniversary. The 20th annivesrary of a brutal shooting that took place in the school library, perpetrated by two students who managed to kill 13 fellow pupils and who would have killed many more had their homemade explosives worked. To mark the occasion in their own way (before the media onslaught) the school decide to stage a dramatised version of the event written by a parent of one of the victims. Tensions and emotions run high as the students begin to realise the enormity of their roles in the piece and wittnesses fight over fact and fiction. Questions regarding the needs of the wider community are raised alongside the dilemma of whether such an activity will help and heal or just open old wounds.

Most of the actors in this production play two characters and no secret is made of the costume changes or varying ages. They use only chairs with small desks and remain onstage for most of the production so the stage is always full and busy. This aids the pace hugely as there is plenty of opportunity within the script and subject matter to slow the scenes down too much. There are indeed moments of silent and still poignancy but these work because they are the minority.

The relationship between Nic (Jamie Biddle) and Eli (Noah James) who are cast as the two murderers is genuinely intriguing to watch. In researching their roles their own friendship shifts and changes and there are a few extremely unsettling moments in which they find they relate rather too well to their characters.

Derek Arnold is also a powerhouse of energy, beautifully underplaying the contrasting emotional states of survivor Robert Murphy and creating slightly comedic student Gabe Foster. There is also some light relief in the form of over-eager stage manager Melissa Albrecht (Zoe Swenson-Graham) who is determined to do everything by the book and whose enthusiam knows no bounds.

The whole piece is well balanced and the simple presentation emphasises the carefully crafted speeches. Jennifer Armour (in her role as Principal Jeffers) observes how life is complicated and that not everything can be explained in three acts - At The Broken Places only has two but certainly makes a brave and moving attempt to fill them with both detail and varying perspectives.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston