Breaking Bread

Wentworth Falls School of Arts, May 14


Give eight playwrights the same brief – to write a short monologue with however an oblique relationship to the theme of food – and you’ll get eight very different responses. Especially when, as director Margaret Davies did, you pair each playwright with a specific actor for whom they are to write. The eight varied from playlets to fragments to one stand-up comedy routine, with no howling weak links in either the writing or performances.

Breaking res
The cast rips into the crusty substance in question. Photo: Nick McKinlay.

The two that really stood out were, on several levels, the least assuming, and perhaps there was a lesson there: trying to craft something too ornate, arty or long was less effective than a vignette with an underplayed performance.

Preeminent in this regard was Ryan Patrick Ryan’s Wild Oyster, in which Tiriel Mora played a character reminiscing about his love of oysters and learning to shuck them. The writing was witty, gentle, wistful and slightly oneiric, and Mora delivered it with a delicious feel for timing. Jade Fuda also provided an appealingly unforced performance in Amanda Kaye’s Onions. Again this was a vignette rather than a playlet in which Fuda’s character actually fried onions on stage while lamenting about a failed relationship that grew out of playing Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, and in which the disappointing boyfriend shied away from eating onions, among other activities.

The funniest piece, Borscht or a series of seemingly accidental digressions in an attempt to understand casual racism, was penned by Stephen Davis and delivered (with microphone) by Reema Petrusev as a cheeky stand-up act. Lisa Dowling’s Soap sandwiches gave Shane Porteous an entertaining role musing on imaginary events in his past life as a star of A Country Practice, and Julian Leatherdale exploited all the virtuoso acting at Andrew McDonell’s disposal in A life in ten meals. McDonell played a character at five stages of his life, from mewling infant to dying diabetic, as well as the infant’s mother and the diabetic’s son. The piece could have been chopped by 10 minutes, but McDonnell provided absolute clarity in his leaps between characterisations.

The other three works, Mark O’Flynn’s Airline Food (with Olivia O’Flynn), Aeva O’Dea’s Off-piste (with Janine Penfold) and Ingle Knight’s Just desserts (with Georgia Adamson), were marginally less successful. O’Flynn’s seemed too slight a premise for its length, although the black-humoured pay-off was certainly amusing, and O’Dea’s also needed to lose some of the rather rambling build to the piece’s subsequent poignancy. Knight’s was the most ambitious in some ways, using the resonances of ideas to send the text flaring off in a welter of switchbacks of time, place and character. But Knight, Davis and Adamson failed to prevent some moments of confusion bedevilling us, and this one, too, was probably a nudge too long, despite its inherent charm.

Breaking Bread is already a diverting and accomplished collage of plays and performances, and, with some judicious cuts and rewrites, it could easily become uniformly excellent. Davis (directing and producing for Weatherboard Theatre Company) has introduced some humorous stage- business in the modest prop changes between segments, and the work as a whole radiates an undeniable warmth of humanity. Its potential appeal is wide, and it deserves a return season in another theatre.