A tech run for Yirra Yaakin’s Cracked. Image: Dana Weeks.
‘We all have but one life – regardless of the paths we tread, only one, and it’s a precious gift.’
Life is indeed precious, and this beautifully crafted show is well worth a few hours of yours. Written by Barbara Hostalek, Cracked is a powerful and thought-provoking look inside our criminal justice system from an exciting new voice.
Weaving several storylines into one, Cracked shows the complexity and disconnectedness of people who fall into a life of crime, and the trials faced by prisoners and others who are determined to help them find a better life.
Cracked delves into a system that many of us know little about, but it’s not a stereotypical Hollywood movie approach: this is about empathy, relationships, consciousness, the intricacy of human nature, fighting to see one’s children, the sheer annoyance raised in every one of us that has ever been forced to listen to classical music (supposedly to keep us calm) while on hold, and how damn creepy spiders are.
This is a six-hander, and every member of the cast shines. The protagonist, Frankie (Bobbi Henry), is in jail for serious offences of assault and drug possession. She’s bitter, disenfranchised and just wants to live life on her terms. But jail is also a temporary escape for her from financial hardship, homelessness, and hunger.
Cracked is the story of Frankie as she rages her way through the criminal justice system with the hope of being reunited with her kids. The relationship between Frankie and the prison guard is one of the many beautiful and surprising relationships between the characters that portray the crazy ups and downs and pressures of how we connect with different personalities. WA’s meth crisis is well discussed and to see it on the stage instead of the newspaper brings the juxtaposition of the reality to the fore. Addicts are people, with children, exes, friends and family. There are people, not numbers – lives, not cases.
Emerging Aboriginal playwright Barbara Hostalek should be commended for Cracked, her first full length play, which was written in partnership with Playwriting Australia’s Ignition Project, as the result is a sensitive script that is both funny and heartbreaking, oh-so-bleak and wonderfully optimistic.
The set, however, was more than a little distracting as clunky set pieces moved in and out during dialogue that deserved our full attention. The fourth wall is already removed, and audience’s imaginations can handle the odd desk or bed being on set without being whisked around on a revolving stage or unlocked from particular spots. The acting and dialogue was strong enough for us to see past all of that, so hopefully this gets cleaned up for future presentations – of which I hope there are many.
This was the first show from Yirra Yaakin since Eva Grace Mullaley took over as artistic director in April, and it’s a triumphant beginning that leaves this reviewer excited to see future productions under her hand.
Cracked is feisty and straight up and ball breaking. It’s rough around the edges, but the heart is huge. It’s a show that people are bound to remember for all its quirks, regard with fondness, and take friends and family back to the next time round. What a cracker.
4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆
Written by Barbara Hostalek
Directed by Eva Grace Mullaley
Featuring Bobbi Henry, Bruce Denny, Holly Jones, Luke Hewitt, Mathew Cooper and Rayma Morrison
7-18 May 2019
Subiaco Arts Centre
Tickets $40 – $50