‘Broken Colour’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 18, 2013

‘Broken Colour’ is by a wonderful new talent, Adelaide playwright, Nina Pearce. In 2010, the play was the winner of the Jill Blewett Playwright’s Award, the play being described as ‘exciting, courageous and passionate’.

In the lead up to Mental Health Week, The Blue Room and Same Cat Productions are presenting this play on the taboo subject of mental illness. This production is showing at the Blue Room Main Theatre, in the Perth Arts Complex, Northbridge. The 80-minute performances run nightly at the early time of 7.00 until 5th October.

 

The stage is painted black, it has two storage boxes with a seats incorporated on the lids. In the corner is a simple art studio (Iona McAuley, Liam Murray).

A young psychiatrist, Gareth (James Helm), is at the airport waiting for his wife’s plane to land. Although it is just days since his wife, Olivia (Hannah Day), left to collect another art award, the warmth of their reunion shows their deep love for each other. Gareth is desperate for a child, but babies couldn’t be further from the mind of Olivia who is worried about the way the world is going.

At the local hospital where Gareth practises, a young girl, Eliza (Caris Eves) is a patient in the mental ward. As she is waiting for her boyfriend to visit, she is continually challenged by several of the other patients and hounded by a heartless nurse (all played by Nina Pearce). Eliza has grapheme synaesthesia; this is an ability to analysis the mood or emotional state of people by reading their emitted coloured aura. Eliza seemed to be particularly accurate at this and has a few other psychological talents too.

These two parallel, but very different love stories are both filled with tension and confusion. Is there any hope for poor Eliza in the institution? Could she possibly be there by misdiagnosis?

 

Iona McAuley’s set design was quite simple, but her costume strategy was very clever. Gareth’s costume matched his aura, Olivia was arty, Eliza a little frumpy and with the ‘little girl lost’ feel to her outfit and the many bit parts had a great deal of thought put into them.

Nina (superb) has to play several very different cameos; of different ages, varied accents, and deportment. With little time to establish the characters, the costumes for each had to instantly portray the person’s personality and demeanour – Iona achieved this most successfully.

Gareth gave a solid performance as the confused husband, with a wife reticent to show her love and who constantly reads between the lines of everything he says; whereas his patient just glowed love and only wanted to be loved in return. There was a point in the play where one of Olivia’s reactions REALLY frightened the audience, congratulations!

All four actors captured their deep and complicated personalities perfectly. Caris has already proved herself by reaching the peak of her modelling career, but how few actresses can then transfer to acting and achieve the same success? This play shows that Caris is not just a pretty face; her part was multifaceted, one minute demanding a radiating, smiling glow, followed a split second later by depression, rejection, anger affection, tears, then back to a sensible conversation and analysis. This performance was one of the best by an actress that the Blue Room has seen in some time.
Director Mike McCall has taken the whole cast several layers higher than the average ‘acceptable’ performances that sadly we see too often. You really felt empathy and a genuine desire to console some of the characters. Brilliant. At no stage did I feel depressed by this complex play about emotions, even in her despair, fragile Eliza seemed to be most positive about her future.

The script was beautifully constructed with dialogue that was natural and showed deep understanding of the subject. There were several fun story threads sprinkled throughout the play. I look forward to Nina’s next play.

The powerful sound design by The Men from Another Place and the most effective lighting from Andrew Portwine gave the final icing on the cake.

A stunning, gripping play wonderfully produced.