From August 2, Sydney’s Old Fitz Theatre will be hosting the Sydney premiere of the psychological drama, Fracture. Written and directed by Lucy Clements, Fracture invites audiences into a world of personal isolation and reveals the dangers that lurk within.
Theatre People were lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk with Clements about her work.
According to Clements, it all began three years ago while she was studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
“I was studying a brand new course there called Performance Making that trains students to be multi-disciplinary theatre artists, which I enrolled in with a dream of becoming a professional performer,” Clements says.
“In my second year however, we were given playwriting classes from a teacher named Damon Lockwood, who inspired and encouraged me to pursue writing. It was in this class that a friend, Helia Sulak, and I came up with the concept for a play called Fracture, which was a murder mystery with about five settings and 13 characters.”
Clements says she and Sulak wrote the first few drafts together and submitted it as a university production at a neighbouring school, but it was rejected.
“The rejection sparked a desire for me to continue developing the work, desperately wanting to prove what it could be,” she says. “I sent it to all my teachers and coordinators at WAAPA as well as my few contacts in the industry, pleading for some sort of support to get the piece up. Joe Lui, a prominent theatre maker in Perth’s independent theatre scene, read the piece and replied that he was willing to chat about it. Joe became my first dramaturge and mentor of Fracture, and guided me to bring it to the shape that it is now – one with just four characters and one setting.”
Since that time, Clements has continued to write and develop Fracture and while she is writing, directing and producing theatre, she says she has no desire to perform.
Theatre People asked Clements to provide an insight into what Fracture, in its current form, is all about.
“Like it was in it’s first ever draft, Fracture still has a ‘mystery’ element to it, so you will have to forgive me seeming a little vague when I talk about it,” she says.
“Fracture opens as a kitchen sink style drama. Charlie is living with his two housemates in a run-down Perth apartment, where he has been residing for the last year. He has a routine, which involves going to work, playing video games, trying to make healthy dietary decisions… and then being woken up screaming in the middle of the night by the same haunting nightmare.
“As the play continues, we start piecing together what exactly drove him to this place, and what secret is keeping him from going back. Slowly, we will see the naturalistic, kitchen sink outer skin of the play fall away to reveal something much more surreal and vulnerable underneath.”
Not only is Clements the playwright and, now, the director behind Fracture, but it’s her own company, New Ghosts Theatre Company, that is presenting the work’s Old Fitz premiere. So, how was it that Clements came to establish her own theatre company?
“I established New Ghosts when I submitted Fracture for the Blue Room Theatre. The catalyst for this decision was literally that one of the questions on the submission form was ‘Company Name’. So, just like that, I had to make a company.
“At the time I was working with a visual artist named Jack Wansbough on a concept for a new play that revolved around the idea of how theatre spaces, and all spaces for that matter, are influenced by what you have experienced there previously. For instance, if you were to see a man get hit by a car on Sixth Avenue, your perspective towards Sixth Avenue would forever be changed.
“The same goes for theatre. When I imagine Griffin Theatre, for instance, I always think of Ladies Day, which was the first production I saw there. I then see all other shows at this venue in relation to this first production, drawing comparisons and differences. Hence the name New Ghosts; theatre which acknowledges the ghosts of past while endeavouring to leave new ones for the future. This is particularly relevant to this production of Fracture, which takes place on Low Level Panic’s set, which is the Old Fitz Main Show that is on directly before us each night. This means that our production is enormously influenced by the very recent ghost of Low Level Panic, which is an element we’ve had to learn to embrace, putting our name to the test.”
Fractured comes to Sydney following a successful season at The Blue Room Theatre, which is considered to be the Perth home of independent theatre.
“The Blue Room is an incredible theatre company that curates two seasons of new, Australian work each year, supporting both the production and the development leading up to it,” Clements tells Theatre People. “They offer free rehearsal space, venue hire and equipment, funding towards both production costs and mentorship, and full producing support leading up to the production.
“While they have always taken pride in supporting emerging theatre makers, the result of this incredibly supported program is that we are seeing more and more professional theatre companies submitting productions, making it too competitive for emerging artists to be programmed. In 2015 when I submitted with Fracture, The Blue Room acknowledged this growing issue and decided to trial an emerging theatre makers slot in the season, which was a normal, three-week slot that was to be shared between two, emerging artists’ work. This was how Fracture got to be programmed at The Blue Room with a special, one-week season.”
After staging Fracture in front of receptive Western Australian audiences, Clements says she was on what she describes as a ‘theatre maker’s high’, with a strong desire to develop the work further. But she says her team didn’t share that passion.
“The overwhelming advice seemed to be, ‘Well done on your first work, but now it’s time to put that one aside and start on a new one’,” says Clements.
“The story wasn’t quite enough to support a longer life. I understood this, but after all the drafts and development that the script had gone through (two years of work at this point), I was still unconvinced that this story had reached its peak potential. I am delighted to now retrospectively say that this hunch was correct.”
Clements then discovered Stages WA, an organisation created to support the development of new scripts, including provision of dramaturgical funding.
“While searching for a dramaturge that I could apply for this funding with, I discovered the play Tender by Nicki Bloom. It is an incredible play, and one that I thought shared themes and stylistic elements with Fracture.”
Clements contacted Nicki, a playwright and dramaturge living in South Australia, and she agreed to become attached to the project.
“I applied for the Stages WA funding and was successful, and so started my six months of script redevelopment of Fracture. As a playwright who comes from a literature background, Nicki was not only a dramaturge for me but a playwriting mentor, who shared many of her own tools with me and taught me new foundations of the art form.
“One of the main themes in the play that Nicki and I interrogated in the redevelopment was the theme of mental health. Nicki is the mother of three young boys, and having this perspective on the script helped me discover a new angle on [where] this play could go.
“While the character in the play is never diagnosed, and audiences will make what conclusion they will, for me in this redevelopment this play became about exploring postnatal depression in men. Before engaging with Nicki, I wasn’t aware that postnatal depression affected men, but statistics show that up to 10% of men experience it, in conjunction with or independently of their partners. This idea reshaped the play once again, changing many of the outcomes from what they were in the Perth production.
“It’s a very different play from what it was, and I am excited to bring that to an audience.”
Fractured represents Clements’ first time directing a full-length work, and she tells Theatre People it’s been a joy to do so. She says the aspect of the process on which she prides herself most is the team she’s assembled to make this production happen.
“Both the cast and creatives are so wonderful and talented, and an absolute joy to work with,” Clements says.
“The Fracture cast is made up of four professional performers, most of whom are doing this project in-between their work at Australia’s most prominent state theatre companies, with Contessa [Treffone] just finishing up with All My Sons and Brandon [McClelland] about to begin rehearsals for Midsummer Night’s Dream, both at Sydney Theatre Company. Working with these artists has helped me drive Fracture to a level far beyond what I could have imagined as a writer, and made the whole directing process incredibly rewarding… even when they do think the writing needs changing!”
And what is it that Clements would most like audience members to take away from Fracture?
“Our production of Fracture is centred on mental health; the courage that it takes to reach out for help and the consequences when you don’t,” she explains.
“According to Mindframe National Media Intuitive, approximately one in five Australians experience a mental illness every year. Despite this, the stigma on mental health continues to exist, preventing people nationwide from seeking out the help they require. This is particularly relevant to young, Australian men. We hope that this production will make audiences take a look both at themselves and at the people in their community and encourage providing and reaching out for support where it is needed.”
FRACTURE – SEASON DETAILS
When: 9.30pm. Preview: 2 August; Season: 3 to 12 August
Tickets: $25 via www.oldfitztheatre.com/late-shows-2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre – 129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo