Sodid Svid Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
6:30pm, Wed 13 Mar 2013
I don’t usually mention accents much when I write, because they typically don’t matter to me: hey, I’ve just spent a fortnight in South Korea (with a mere two native phrases under my belt) going to K-pop concerts where I understood absolutely nothing that was said (though I learnt that if someone says “감사합니다” in your general direction with a smile on their face, it’s usually a good thing). What I’m trying to explain is that I’m somewhat experienced in being a little lost in language.
But Breaker took me to a whole other level of confusion, because I knew that actors Hannah Donaldson and Finn den Hertog were speaking English… it’s just that the thick Scottish filter that the dialogue was pushed through left me straining for familiar hooks and cadences, struggling to identify with the content. Once I found my aural Rosetta Stone, all became (somewhat) clear… but up until that point, the accents were a real problem.
Back to Breaker‘s plot: Hertog plays Daniel, a young man visiting a remote island where his grandmother was raised, hoping to find a connection to her earlier life; whilst taking shelter from a storm, he encounters local teacher Sunna (Donaldson). After initial conflict, the two wind through an exploration of the issues unique to the island: children are, lemming-like, lured from the cliffs to the waters beneath by the Dark Lady of the Sea. It’s a bleak topic, but it somehow – almost unexpectedly – becomes a desperate tussle for human contact, for affection, for validation… for Daniel, for Sunna, for the remaining population of the island.
The set is simple – a large wooden box in the centre of the stage that Hertog and Donaldson constantly circle as they mentally pick at each other. Likewise, lighting is a simple affair… but the sound design is deeply unsettling, low tones and rumbles keeping me on edge. But the highlight for me was Donaldson’s performance: her appearance onstage was like a lightning bolt – bright, brilliant, and immediately engaging, I could not take my eyes off her. And her character of Sunna was sublime: desperate and intelligent, her psychoanalysis of newcomer Daniel, the picker of the scabs of her wounded community, was vicious.
Once past the language barrier, Breaker became an absolute gem… but not a gleaming gem. Not a gem that you show off. No – this is the dark, cloudy, secretive stone that shakes your foundations and leaves you nervous about putting one foot in front of the other. And I absolutely love the fact that a piece of theatre can give me that feeling.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 13, 2013