Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Compact Failure

Jennifer Framer
Clean Break
Traverse, Edinburgh, and touring
(2004)

Compact failure production photo

A high-quality production from Clean Break, Compact Failure, is a brutal and honest prison drama about friendship, loyalty, forgiveness, and motherhood. It follows the stories of Ruthie (Claire-Louise Cordwell), Chelle (Lorna Gayle) and Maya (Sharlene Whyte) during their time in prison.

We are dropped into the play with stories flying and the histories of the characters a blur. It's not until the first few scenes have passed that we learn about what in Ruthie, Chelle and Maya's histories have brought them to their current positions (and to give this away would ruin several important plot points, so I won't explain further).

Writer Jennifer Farmer shows great skill in how she unfolds the complex stories of these three women - between her words and the actress' performances, audience members didn't stand a chance of being unmoved. Despite an interruption during the performance which I attended which meant a member of the audience had to be removed during a particularly intense scene, the actresses maintained their focus to an admirable degree and it was easy to keep following the show.

Ti Green's set is masterly - a wall of lockers into and out of which props, costumes, and furniture appear. Watching the inticate workings of how the lockers and their doors were manipulated to create new settings within the prison was a welcome distraction from the sometimes extended scene changes.

The biggest issue that Compact Failure faced in the Traverse 2 space, which it perhaps will not face elsewhere, is the awkward structure of the theatre. Unfortunately, the set was oriented straight at the centre set of risers/seats, and it did not seem as if any effort was made to cater to audience members on either side. Other than this small quibble, which is not entirely her fault, director Sarah Esdaile has done a tremendous job in directing these three very talented actresses through the difficult emotional journey faced by each of their characters.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody