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March 19, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Bent Not Broken

By Merrin Cavel
Directed By Ban Abdul
Bats Theatre until March 16

While I sat in Bats, three things on the stage caught my eye. The first was a clock reading quarter to eleven. Strange, the doors opened at 6:20pm. Secondly, twelve chairs sat in a full circle, each facing inwards. Finally, I saw a block in the middle of the stage, about half the height of a human and painted in black and grey graffiti. I began to ask myself if I was in the right theatre.

Bent Not Broken is the stage adaptation of Lauren Roche’s violently difficult life.

As a child, she watched her father abuse her mother, and as a teenager she became a drug abuser who turned to stripping and prostitution to pay her bills. As she grew older, she plunged further into this constant nightmare. However, after 20 years of intense destructive experiences, Lauren decided to turn her life around and fulfil her dream of becoming a fully-qualified medical doctor.

As it turns out, I was in the right theatre after all. This piece was beautifully acted. Never once has a single woman held my attention for a whole hour and fifteen minutes. The amazing thing about Merrin Cavel’s performance was that she showed a colossal amount of diversity as an actor within the small time of the play. Not only did she portray Lauren Roche as a child, but she developed with her role into the fully matured woman she is today. She also slipped in and out of other characters from time to time, such as Lauren’s troubling mother and her sympathetic aunt.

One criticism I have of this play is its limited audience appeal. The play requires a certain amount of imagination and patience to appreciate it fully. If you adore realism and are used to being spoon-fed while watching theatre, this is not for you. Without a decent amount of concentration, you would be easily lost in Lauren’s nightmare. Another criticism I have is that this is not a deliberate inspirational piece.

Perhaps it is just me, but I never once felt an inner awakening during the play.

Having said that, I do love this piece of theatre for its metaphysical representations and visual simplicity. The lack of a glamorous set forces the audience to have a stronger focus on Merrin’s performance, helping us appreciate more of Lauren’s troubling life. Even the lights were kept simple.

But perhaps what I adored most about this play were the twelve chairs in a full circle, each facing inwards. As Lauren slipped in and out of her past experiences and grew up, she would move a chair down, mimicking a clock as she continued with her group therapy. She begins at one o’clock as a small child and finishes at the top of the clock as a fully matured woman with a medical degree. I couldn’t help but crack a massive smile when, in the final performed stage of her life, the hanging clock on the wall read twelve.

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