It's the end of the world and there is nothing you can do to save yourself or your loved ones. So what do you do? Do you play a good game of scrabble or become an alcoholic? Or do you choose to masturbate in public? After all, if there's no tomorrow what's the worst punishment you'll face? Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Matthew Sini's Prayers To Broken Stone is a family comedy dealing with the apocalypse, or is it an apocalypse dealing with a family comedy?
The opening scene takes places two hours before the Earth is hit by a meteorite and begins as a tableau of a dinner party from hell with a young woman lying dead on the kitchen floor from a stab wound. From here, each scene goes further into the past, initially in two hour jumps to what then becomes months until we finish with the first scene taking place two years ago.
Starting with such a dramatic ending and a scene that already raises many questions, it is vital that the tension is maintained throughout Prayers To Broken Stone, and unfortunately this production is unable to do so. Part of the difficulty is that while it's labelled as a comedy, it's not often clear if we are meant to be watching a comedy or a drama or a thriller as tropes from each genre are used but there isn't a consistent approach to help build the foundations of the story.
There are several important developments in the story that are not explained or delved into enough to flesh out most of the characters with some - such as siblings Declan and Kenny (Matthew C. Clarke and Sean Minahan) - having no discernible purpose for being in Prayers To Broken Stone. While some of the performances require further development, Laila Thaker does well as Sybil, the girlfriend to the matriarch of this dysfunctional family and Emma Jo McKay's performance as drunk Aunt Ruth is also entertaining to watch.
While the backward narrative is an interesting device, there needs to be more clarity on what and who the story is about, as the drastic change halfway through can leave you confused and underwhelmed. While the end of the world might be imminent in Prayers To Broken Stone, with some re-working, there might be a second life to this production.
Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park.
Season: until 16 September 7:405pm, 19 - 23 September 9:15pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $28 Full | $24 Conc | $20 Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival