Patrick O’Duffy writes …

Within a cloud of chemical smoke, two women sit in a pile of shredded paper snow, staring into nothing. Suddenly they snap into rapid-fire conversation about washing-up incidents, then just as quickly fall silent again. A momentary spasm of racism, a quick discussion about Hollywood hotels; soon the silence falls away for a while and they begin asking each other questions. Was there a maid? What was her husband’s name? Is there any vodka? Where’s the baby? Maybe that’s not meant to be snow. Maybe that’s something more sinister; maybe it’s hiding something we don’t want to see.

This is the aftermath of something terrible, and these two women have done something terrible, something that they can’t bring themselves to remember clearly now that all the days have blurred into one. The only option is to break themselves out of their current cycle, something from which there is no return …

Calling Dropped a comedy is a bit of a stretch—it’s funny in staccato bursts, little trills of farce embedded in a grey, fractured foundation. But the laughs fall away as the play progresses. Instead, this is bleak absurdism rather like a flipped Waiting for Godot, with two characters trying to escape the world they’ve built for themselves, a world where sanity has been the first casualty.

Laughter aside, though, Dropped is a very strong piece of theatre. Katy Warner’s script is brutal and moving in turns, and Matilda Reed and Olivia Monticciolo both give great performances. Our idea of the unnamed women changes over the course of the play as we get a better idea of what’s going on, and that change, that slow unravelling of illusions, is communicated powerfully and shockingly by these actors.

If you like boffo laughs, this isn’t the play for you. If you like Beckett riffs and occasional screaming, along with smart writing and gripping, even sickening tension, then Dropped will provide.

Dropped is playing 28 September to 5 October at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

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