Broken Record is a new play written and staring Emily Farrell, where the lives of three siblings is told over the space of a month, as they all try to navigate their twenties as a family and as individuals. Emily Farrell is not just the playwright but also plays, main character Anne, who feels lesser than her siblings, a theme that will become crucial in the play’s final act.
There’s a cliché about a person writing and staring in their own production, that it’s a vanity project, and while that may be the case for some, that doesn’t seem to be the case here at all. Every single character has been fleshed out and given as much development as Anne. It never felt like Farrell was using the other characters to complete the project, her writing really gave each actor a chance to shine, and shine they do.
Broken Record had originally been written as a two-character performance that never had the chance to be performed. After seeing the new iteration, I can’t imagine the play without all four characters.
The plot follows Anne and her siblings. Bonnie (Jaz Balmer) and Zak (Rayhan Maskun) both appear to be at a better point in their lives, while Anne compares herself to them, and her frustration and jealousy only grows.
The only non-family member is played by Giacinta Squires, who plays the internal voice of Anne. The play is broken up into two parts; one is between the siblings and the other is between Anne and her internal monologue. Scenes with the siblings are presented in the past, ultimately leading to the moments between Anne and her internal self, think of it like an indie-theatre version of a Christopher Nolan film. The transition between these scenes is done completely on stage, a simple change of position and certain characters exiting or entering stage, the way that these changes happen is fluid and natural. It was like a dance with how choreographed and deliberate these changes occur.
Scenes between Squires and Farrell were my favourites. This is mostly due to Squires’ performance, her character is more than just Anne’s internal monologue. The way she uses small body movements to enhance the narrative is perfection and one you can’t take you eyes off.
All of these characters felt like real people, and they’re likeable, the only one that isn’t is Anne. But this wasn’t just my opinion, it is often addressed by other characters as Anne can be selfish and judgmental. These character traits she are a huge factor that leads to the shocking final act. When the play reaches its finale, the scenes leading up to it all make sense. Nothing ever felt like it was thrown in there to pad the run time.
Five By Five Theatre’s Broken Record is something completely new. Some of the story beats are what we may have seen before, but they’ve been refreshed and given a new life. There’s always something I’ve found so wonderful about seeing people of my own age create art like this. It’s something more nuanced than older generations are willing to give this generation credit for. Hopefully Broken Record will be used as proof that you don’t need to be older to create a wonderful piece of art.
Sadly, Broken Record has closed. It played at Club Voltaire, North Melbourne from the 25th of May to the 4th of June. But hopefully this will not be the last time we see work from both Emily Farrell and Five by Five Theatre.
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Photography by Tyrone Cross.