Mary Ann Butler’s Broken, which just finished a two week run at Darwin’s Brown Mart theatre, is a brutal and bare-knuckled play that kicks you in the head–and the guts–from the first minute and keeps kicking and screaming for the next hour.

A car rolls in the desert night, a half-broken-hearted man tends the wounded woman in the wreck. He lies about her dog. At home his missus has a bloody screaming miscarriage.

And it all rolls downhill from there with inevitable force and energy of a runaway road-train without any brakes half-way down the Balbarini jump-up.

The set is as sparse as the script is visceral. The actors do all the work in a play of screams and movement and snap-chatted dialogue that bounces from bloody wreck to bloodless soul to bleeding heart and cunt.

Rosealee Pearson, better known as a dancer of note and regard, is stunning as the wreckee Ash in her first acting role. Matt Edgerton, half-bogan-miner, half-stargazing mystic and mender of body and wrecker of hearts is a thoroughly reasonable creep as Ham. Darwin local Ciella Williams is the best of a very good bunch as Mia, for whom we spend far too much time pitying as a pathetic wreck but who emerges as the only real winner from this cock-eyed bob of a show.

As horrible and depressing as all this seems, it is a testament to Butler’s craft that we leave the theatre–white-knuckled but hand-warmed by a standing ovation on the penultimate night of a two week run–somehow uplifted and in serious need of strong drink.

Broken works so well because of the physicality of the actors on the bare stage, because of the punch and power of Butler’s script and the whip-cracking snap of Gail Evans’ direction that drives the script at a blistering pace of cross-cut lines delivered second-perfect in an hour-long three-handed monologue.

I left thrilled, challenged and horrified all at once. You couldn’t hope for much more on a night out in Darwin–unless you pop down to Mitchell Street’s red-light zone on a Friday-fight-night for a pint, a fuck and a punchup.

Broken may be back later in the year and should get a run in southern theatres sooner rather than later.

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Broken

By Mary Anne Butler

Directed by Gail Evans

with Matt Edgerton, Rosealee Pearson and Ciella Williams

Brown’s Mart Theatre, Darwin

brownsmart.com.au

17-29 March 2015

Photos by Glenn Campbell