Saturday 12 August 2023

The Fence review

We may see fences as the boundary of our property, where one house ends and another one starts. But what happens when that fence is literally and figuratively taken down? Written by Fleur Murphy, The Fence takes audiences into the home of one woman as she bears witness to the darker side of neighbourhood living.

Louisa Mignone plays a happily married woman with a three-year-old daughter. She works night shifts at a local supermarket stacking shelves as she and her husband plan on buying the house they are currently renting. When a couple move in next door and tear down the fence between them, it leads to emotions and feelings that begin to impact her life as she struggles with the implications of turning a blind eye or calling out what she suspects is taking place.

Mignone is phenomenal as the protagonist, conveying her conflicting thoughts and observations as her blissful life is chipped away due to the domestic and family violence that is possibly occurring. Mignone also performs the other roles in the play (including her husband, daughter, neighbours and co-workers) and she skilfully handles these transitions. She's clearly reflected on who all these people are and spent time with them to understand their motivations and purpose, giving her the opportunity to present a rich and detailed display of this suburban life.

Murphy's poetic style of writing complements the natural language and vocabulary that the Woman uses and it is an effective contrast to the disturbing events happening next door. Alice Darling's direction gives room for an initial lightness in Mignone's performance but as the confrontations with the neighbours escalate, Darling has these movements and actions be slowly consumed by uncertainty and anxiety.

The set design by Karine Larché includes three rotating movable pieces that form various rooms and viewpoints of the home allowing for a strange dance of being free and being trapped. The structures permit the audience to play the role of voyeur along with the woman as she peers through windows and doors, keeping a careful eye on the couple.

Sidney Millar's sound design captures a reassuring suburban soundscape and pairs it with rhythmic heartbeats. At times, these are softer and less pronounced beats and other times they are rapidly thumping, building the paranoia for the Woman and the tension for the audience. Clare Springett's lighting further supports this mood with blinding headlights shone out to the audience and especially so when the neighbours have their TV playing and we see the colours and lights from the TV shining through the windows. It is troubling yet fascinating how something as comforting as an episode of Friends, along with the muffled audio and laughter that we hear, can cause so much unease. Friends and domestic violence are not something that you would consider as a pair, but that’s the insidious nature of what is happening in the Woman’s life.

The Fence is a compelling production about the decisions we are forced to face when our sanctuary and safety of home is challenged by outside influences, and the moral dilemma in minding your own business or stepping in and saying something. The Fence tells us a story where there is no finality, and how the choices we make - or don't make – can easily continue to torment us.


Venue: Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre, 189 High St, Northcote
Season: Until 20 August | Wed - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5:00pm
Duration: 60 minutes
$38 Full | $30 Concession
Bookings: Darebin Arts

Image Credit: Cameron Grant

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