This is one of those rare occasions where it is necessary to dispense with a star rating, because the proceedings in Shattered Fragments are, um, shattered fragments – works in development that could be lengthened to become full plays, or otherwise, in that sad but necessary and always unsentimental process, consigned to gather dust on a shelf, perhaps indefinitely, or until the concepts and ideas therein can be shaped and moulded into something else.
It is possible, I think, for Shattered Fragments to be presented more widely largely as it is, with only minor modifications, particularly as some of the ideas feel very complete despite their brevity. What would be more successful though, and it may take a few more editions (this being the fourth) of Shattered Fragments to coral enough theatrical works together to make this happen, is to put a showcase together of all the various ‘fragments’ that didn’t quite get produced as shows in their own right. I take this idea from the musical Marry Me A Little, which took songs cut from Stephen Sondheim’s works up to 1980 (when Marry Me A Little was first performed) and songs from Sondheim’s Saturday Night, written in the 1950s but not produced until 1997.
‘The Burgundy Boy’, subtitled ‘an autobiographical experiment’, was rather absorbing, except for the scene changes which took a tad too long. Well, they didn’t really, but audiences these days have gotten used to impressively swift changes, even if this comes at the expense of elaborate sets. Not in chronological order – it starts in the present day – it attempts to be as far away from rose tinted as possible. Though the audience remains aware the story is being told by the one character, played by Jake Hassam, looking back on his own life, and will be filtered and biased accordingly, there seems a commitment to being candid and truthful to the best of his recollection. The result here is humorous and understated; the potential to go into as much detail as our character cares to in order to create a standalone production of this show, is vast.
‘The Circus of Truth (Or How To Be A Better Human)’, was not entirely to my personal taste. The immersive theatre elements were engaging enough, but outside of that, aspects were bordering on puerile. Some of the points made felt laboured; its central point, something about anxiety and insecurity, excessive. There was an unintended metaphor in the leading lady’s assistant having his face stuffed until he couldn’t cope and food spilled on the floor – it was, all in all, more than one would normally be expected to stomach.
‘Trinity’, apparently a clown piece, though the performer (Lisa Maria Berg) was not dressed in such a way to indicate this, was laced with dark humour throughout. There are so many observations to be made in a walk down the street. To expand this to a full show, it would be good to see the character in different situations. She maintains composure no matter how absurd things yet during her walk, but how would she fare in a long queue at the Post Office? Would she be so calm during a shopping trip to the post-Christmas sales? Does anything at all faze her? What’s the secret to her serenity?
‘The Woman Whose House Was Stolen’ is intriguing, and we never (at least in its current format presented here) get even close to finding out what happened to the lead character’s house. Her property was not claimed by squatters or subject to a compulsory purchase order. I refrain from stating what actually occurred – as I say, we don’t discover definitively how she ended up without a house in any event. I think this piece is fine as it is; that said, there is still room for expansion. The homeowner contacts the council, who proves to be (perhaps stereotypically) of no practical use. But this isn’t the only method of investigation (the police wouldn’t believe her story at all and refused to assist her in any way) – private investigators, going to the media, and crowdfunding to buy another property are all potentially feasible avenues to include. Well performed by Emily Lloyd-Saini with supporting roles performed by Patrick Evans and Tom Graysham, it’s the ‘fragment’ I enjoyed seeing the most.
‘Girl from Ipanema’ was a ‘surreal solo show’ indeed. Entertaining as it was, I struggle to come up with any suggestions on how it could be taken further, unless it were to include other equally zany scenes. Playing on the ironic process theory, an instruction not to look inside a box acts as an open invitation to do so, and once somebody in the audience had eventually got up to do so, the ‘fragment’ ended. The lack of plot and character development was made up for in the intrigue and suspense manifested; even so, I suspect there may have been some in the audience who struggled to get much in the way of entertainment out of it.
A real mixed bag of possible productions, I shall be keeping an eye out to see if anything does come of this crop of Shattered Fragments. It’s a good idea to pitch ideas of this nature to the public in this way, if a bold one. It just leaves me to say to 6FootStories and their collaborators: keep the idea juices flowing.
Review by Chris Omaweng
You can expect all manner of strange and unsettling stories at a night of Shattered Fragments. Black magic, ghost stories and twisted fairy tales all make an appearance. We are interested in the fantastical, in the unreal, in what lurks beyond this reality. If you want to join us on a journey to the depths of our imaginations then we welcome you with open arms.
6FootStories is a theatre company devoted to telling weird and wonderful tales that throw ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances. They come to The Bread and Roses after a critically acclaimed run of Macbeth: A Tale of Sound & Fury in February, a three-man retelling of the classic tragedy.
The Bread and Roses Theatre
68 Clapham Manor Street
London SW4 6DS
Sunday 15th to Tuesday 17th May at 7.30pm