There’s no easy way to do this… five performers, five hours of excitement, desperation, negotiation and devastation. Come and go as you please, or stay for the whole duration.
Walking out of a show is the boldest statement an audience member can make. Break Up however welcomes this action. They suggest that you use Twitter for a live commentary and photography and filming is permitted. This makes the prospect of a 5-hour show less daunting, and far more exciting. Halfway through I left to grab a coffee; when I came back the circumstances in the show had completely changed. Break Up is somewhat like an exhibition, where the audience can dip in and out, viewing snippets of the relationship. In doing so the performance mimics the fragmentary nature of memory, and the audience relive the past as the lover’s may recall it.
The plot is simple: you watch a relationship from start to finish. The set-up is odd at first, but you understand it quickly. The play features two characters in a relationship; one actor sits in the ‘hot seat and the other four members of the company sit behind in a semi-circle. When first entering the show, I witnessed a comical conversation that compared raising children to raising pot plants, and the process of working out there were only two characters was strangely enjoyable. The two characters are performed rotationally and the ability of the cast to change characters is fascinating to watch.
Even during these aggravating, even devastating moments, the performers still managed to find moments of comedy
The performances are pure brilliance. Performers Rachel Baker, Oliver Devlin, Ralph Upton, Joel Baxendale, and Fiona McNamara show an outstanding level of endurance and commitment, maintaining a level of performance that manages to remain organic throughout. The fact that they are improvising is mind-blowing as they were so synchronised; it was as though each actor represented a different part of the character’s personality, always remaining closely attuned to one another. The lack of script also makes the story more natural, when facts become jumbled, rather than rejecting it, the actors accept it and use it to steer conflict and debate. Relationships are a long and jumbled narrative, full of a multitude of perceived truths, the shows acceptance of these concurrent ‘facts’ is an acceptance of the individual experience of each partner.
As an audience member, the performance feels so real (even though the actors are dressed as bananas) that you even feel frustrated on their behalf. The breakup I witnessed was a couple way past their use-buy date, after six years and whom merely lost their spark. The story felt so real as both characters often played the villain, and would often trip up and contradict themselves. The most engaging moments were those that exposed how ridiculous a person can become during a breakup, making snide remarks about your partner’s “shitty writing”. Even during these aggravating, even devastating moments, the performers still managed to find moments of comedy.
What makes this show feel so real, are the details. Throughout the duration of the show, we learn intimate facts about the relationship and the characters, allowing us to understand their quirks and pains. Relationships all end differently, much like this show does with each performance. I would be intrigued to see this show again for the hilarious one-liners and gritty reality of breakups.
Image: Theo Taylor