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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Fragments connecting the dots

Eight different stories. Each coming from a different experience, with different challenges, and all of which have been impacted by mental health in their own way.

Fragments is written by award-winning Canberra-based author and playwright, Maura Pierlot, and is based on a series of conversations she had with young people aged 13 to 18 in Canberra and beyond.

The interwoven monologues that comprise Fragments are imagined stories that touch upon common issues facing teens today.

Presented at The Street later this month in conjunction with Mental Health Month ACT, Fragments reveals powerful stories about young people balancing emotional, mental and physical situations as they navigate their way through adolescence and secondary school.

The production’s ensemble cast features Damon Baudin and Linda Chen amongst six other young, emerging Canberra actors, giving voice to a diverse assortment of young people.

Baudin says his character Nicky, a transgender female, is one of the most challenging roles he’s ever taken on.

“She knows who she is, but it’s very much about the outside pressure of the world on her, and it’s time to make those finals steps.

“I was very hesitant, I wanted to get it right … it’s going to be a challenge … given that it’s such sensitive material as well, but I feel very confident with the whole team at The Street.

“I’m terrified, but looking forward to it at the same time, and I think it’s all coming together.”

Chen says the open, collaborative process of rehearsing with a new work, especially with the writer Pierlot present, is an exciting process of tweaking the script and their performances accordingly.

“I always love working with new pieces and new work, there’s always such an exciting discovery process,” she says.

“And then being able to work with the person who originated those ideas, it’s always a privilege, and kind of daunting. You take on a bigger sense of responsibility because they’re there in the room.”

“The cool thing about a text in development, it’s a living, breathing thing still, we don’t just have to bring it to life as actors, they see something on the floor and will rejig it,” Baudin adds.

Director Shelly Higgs says the open collaborative rehearsal process allows everyone to bring something to the table.

“It’s been about collaborating, allowing them to explore and find it as a group so that it makes sense to everyone,” she says.

According to Higgs, the whole show deals with the outward public brave face mentality juxtaposed against the internal, private suffering that many with mental health issues face.

“They all have different things, they’re united by the fact they feel alone, so actually the whole play is about a search for connection.

“It’s also that ‘well no-one else could be feeling what I’m feeling’, whereas really if they just look around they realise that other people are dealing with stuff too,” she says.

Higgs says the work, at its core, is a journey of disconnection to connection.

Fragments is a great name for it because there’s this idea of being a piece or of not being a whole person, and missing something, but I think what they’re actually all missing is connection,” she says.

Given the universality of its subject matter, and the relatability in regard to the spectrum of mental health issues being explored, Higgs says everyone could benefit from seeing this work.

“Young people, just seeing that other people might be feeling the same things that they do, like anxiety … having all these fears, especially in today’s world, kids are besides themselves.

“Mental illness is still stigmatised, so it’s really important that people see these stories, because they’ll act as an avenue for them toward better understanding.”

Fragments will be performed at The Street Theatre, City West, 23-27 October; thestreet.org.au

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