Debris @ Southwark Playhouse Review

As youngsters, the world in which we live can appear magnified; a world dominated by giants (our parents) as we continually attempt to make sense of the day to day. As role models, they’re placed on a pedestal in which they set the ground rules and lead by example, an unbreakable support system as they witness our first stumbling steps and jumbled first words, to our birthdays and graduations. But what happens when that support system breaks down? Who do you turn too?

2th April 2014. Debris at Southwark Playhouse Photo Credit ©Richard Davenport

Openworks Theatre and Look Left Look Right examine just this in Dennis Kelly’s dark and tormented play, Debris. As two young siblings adjust to life on their own, memories unravel as they face the inevitable process of growing up and fending for themselves. A gritty tale of abandonment and isolation, the production is a two hander, centred around the accounts of two siblings searching for parental guidance.

Signe Beckmann and Caitlin Line’s vacant construction site stage design supplies the industrial playground  in which the two protagonists occupy. Grease stained walls and towering hills of rubble become the unsanitary backdrop in which they must make their home. Harry McEntire‘s boisterous energy candy coats the brutal and disturbing anecdotes he dispels of his father, especially in the circumstances of his father’s death. Leila Mimmack adds an erratic and otherworldly quality to the production, recounting the moments leading up to her birth with the metaphorical prop of a white balloon, and a heart breaking ultimatum which switches the family dynamic. A concoction of cooking shows and dysfunctional familial disputes, Mimmack vividly wonders through the rest of the show symbolised by the ballon’s airlessness and innocence.

A play constructed by a succession of monologues, both characters live in two completely different universes. The set design, although of this world, still embodies a sense of distance and the unknown. McEntire’s paternal centric monologues, and Mimmack’s maternal centric speeches indicate what they hold dearest, or perhaps what their strongest memories are, as they both utilise the walls as chalkboards to draw images immortalising their parents. The fractured narrative structure further illustrates a sense of the dysfunctional and chaotic, occasionally reuniting the two lost souls with animated anecdotes of there larger than life Uncle Harry, their temperamental father and their victimised mother.

Abigail Graham‘s production clasps at the concept of living in an unforgiving world, where nothing else but growing up quickly is the one and only option. Although faced with the prospect of being self sufficient, the cast still hold on to their innocence, creating a permanent state of childhood and immaturity. The dishevelled set becomes the over ridding symbol of the production, crumbled bricks scattered amongst the stage further epitomises unrest, unpredictably and family divisions.

Debris envelops the space with a sense of escapism, a place in which the two protagonists call home. A solitary yet lighthearted and youthful production, the piece becomes too presentational at points, as monologues are a means of conversation aimed towards the audience. The light hearted nature of the production is endearing, however, occasionally dramatic moments are lost. The duo sustain a warped sense of reality, darting from scenario to scenario, questioning the supposed role models in their lives. 3/5

2th April 2014. Debris at Southwark Playhouse Photo Credit ©Richard Davenport

Debris is currently showing at The Southwark Playhouse until Saturday 17th May, for more information on the production, visit here…

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