A blindfolded boy tries to hit a piñata. A pantomime horse nudges a grieving old woman. An angel drags a dead boy across the stage. A group of women sing together, dressed in their dead husbands’ clothes. These are the striking, brutal, often beautiful images that make up Brokentalkers and Junk Ensemble’s collaboration.
This series of eclectic vignettes and characters are drawn together under the umbrella of grief. As such a broad and extensive subject in itself, grief seems too small a word; the play explores death, age, pain and loss in many different forms, and uses a plethora of well-crafted techniques to do so, from clowning to choral music.
The choreography by Jessica and Megan Kennedy uses deceptively simple moves to convey far more complex ideas. Ben Sullivan is dragged about the stage by Colin Condon, the grown man manipulating the boy like a rag-doll, propping him up, holding him, folding him, suffocating him. There is desperation in this sinister dance, but also compassion. Condon plays Sullivan’s mysterious abductor, who picks the boy up in his car and later kills him – or so the narrative suggests. There is a moment where Condon tries to lean on Sullivan, but the boy can’t support his weight, and so he falls. It’s not exactly empathetic, but there something very human about this character who goes on to commit such a monstrous act.
In a sense, It Folds is about what happens every time we lean on someone or something hard enough; we crush it. Eventually, it folds. A young woman delivers a speech to her ageing father about a wooden horse she used to have, and the moment in her life when she realised sometimes parents lie, or contradict themselves. Conor Donelan – playing the adult ghost of the dead boy – talks about how he used to believe in the church as a kid, and how his faith collapsed. There’s a sense that nothing’s sacred, that anything might fold at any moment. Even the angel (Dagmara Jerzak) is a troubled, frenzied vision. Sullivan tries to comfort her as she moves frantically around the stage, and there is something profoundly unsettling about the idea that even angels need comforting.
But there is also hope and a great deal of humour in this piece; a strange, striking Wes Anderson-esque humour present in the well-crafted clowning routine and surreal images – particularly the final scene.
In all, It Folds uses bold and unique ideas to construct a sincerely honest depiction of grief.