torn apart (dissolution), Hope Theatre

Nearly two years ago, Bj McNeill’s torn apart (dissolution) premiered at Theatre N16. Aussie/Polish company No Offence have since developed the feminist show over subsequent runs. But how much have they improved since their first go?

Tighter dialogue in the latter half and the addition of some physical theatre sequences give this update more sophistication, but a few of the original issues are still there. McNeill, who also directs, shows an inclination towards European theatre aesthetics, but he doesn’t quite go far enough.

The female-centric, intergenerational story of love and sex hasn’t changed, but stylised staging choices are new. Red-lit movement sequences contribute some welcome expressionism but appear too late and too infrequently to properly disrupt the naturalism. Overlapping scenes have the same effect, with added poignancy – some things in life never change, and history is due to repeat itself. More liberal use of these devices will make the play bolder and less conventional.

In conjunction with the physical theatre sections, there are overly-obvious lighting transitions signposting the breaks from naturalism. Subtle shifts in juxtaposition with the clearly distinct movement styles would more effectively challenge the audience. The choreography is distinct enough that saturated colours distract rather than compliment.

The cast are universally strong, with Elliot Rodgers and Christina Baston’s scenes leading in both in writing and performance. Their narrative on falling in love with the constraints of a visa hanging over them is all the more relevant with today’s global mobility.

torn apart (dissolution)‘s fragmented, time-leaping narrative wants to smash restrained British theatre, but it isn’t quite there yet. With some smoothing of the first few scenes’ dialogue and adding more stylisation, it has the potential to be a truly progressive piece of theatre.

torn apart (dissolution) runs through 22 July.

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