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saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Is Anything Broken?
Tristan Bates Theatre
1st August 2012


Confession time. When I'm not a theatre critic, I'm one of London's suited and booted professionals, fighting fire after fire in the business world and struggling to achieve the coveted "work-life balance" that HR departments always talk about. Having previously found myself juggling a smartphone, regular phone, netbook, laptop and tablet device at the same time, the themes and execution of Is Anything Broken? really hit home.

Originally devised for radio, Dan Davies' play explores the difficulties of marrying your profession with home in this modern age, by following one particularly nightmarish day in the life of stressed out architect, Patrick Emmanuel (Simon Desborough). When Patrick's son Oscar (voiced by Lianne-Rose Bunce) runs out into traffic and hurts himself just before Patrick is due to catch a career-defining flight to Tashkent and present on the new Uzbek Palace of Eternal Freedom, he desperately tries to arrange care for his son and follow through with the project, obstinately ignoring the possibility that he might not be able to do both.

Victoria Johnston's character Orianne Fleet is his frustrated deputy, trying to help Patrick sort out his life, whilst dreaming of a better one for herself. Indeed, the frustration and sadness of Patrick are integral to the production, but for the most part, it is a hilarious piece of satire.

The supporting cast also did a sterling job of taking on a number of varied roles, ranging from Lewis Goody's hilariously gormless Norbert, from the emergency nanny service, to Sakuntala Ramanee as Patrick's cold surgeon wife and Andrew Ward as the slightly gross Peter Wood. Each had a distinct voice and seeing the full range of their abilities was a joy.

A special mention must go to Mafalda Cruz, the production's video designer, for her innovative use of recordings to extend the stage. As well as bringing an extra dimension to the play as a whole, the clips are used to add to the feeling of claustrophobia, as Patrick's life collapses around him and he admits that he was always going to have to let someone down.

In these smaller fringe venues, curtain calls are often dispensed with, for the hugely practical reason of there usually not being a curtain. However, the sold-out house insisted that the cast take a second bow and were generous (quite rightly, so) with their applause. Wonderfully written and acted, Is Anything Broken? will undoubtedly prove to be one of the highlights of the Camden Fringe.

Is Anything Broken? ran from 30th July to 4th August 2012, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)

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