STAGE: The King of Broken Things – The Bridge Theatre, Northlands Primary School, 20 Gleneagles Drive, Durban North
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
FIRST staged in Durban in 2019, after having premiered at the 2018 Hilton Arts Festival, The King of Broken Things was conceived, written and directed by Durban lighting guru Michael Taylor-Broderick, one of the most humble and likeable people on the showbiz scene.
His production, which remains one the best plays to come out of the city, has deservedly gone on to greater things, and is now enjoying a new local season after recent success abroad. Even more exciting is that its new season, a handful of performances until November 12, also opens a new, 100-seater theatre in Durban North.
The Bridge Theatre, offering raked seating, is to be developed into a professional venue for hire – particularly for spoken word theatre, live original music, cabarets, recitals and comedy. The King of Broken Things’ season marks the “soft” launch of the venue, which over the next few months is expected to be further upgraded and enhanced.
Having taken a Gold Ovation Award at the 2020 SA Arts Festival and, more recently, awards for Best Actress, Script and Director at the Golden Dolphin International Puppet Festival in Bulgaria, The King of Broken Things is an hour-long treat.
Inventive, compelling and serving much food for thought, this is a must-see production. It also marks a nuanced, energetic and truly wonderful performance by Cara Roberts, who has been seen in such other local stage successes as Sylvia, Charlotte’s Web and Red Ridinghood.
Following his enchanting Jakob, starring Bryan Hiles, and his more recent, equally beguiling shorter piece, 1 Man 1 Light, The King of Broken Things is the best work to date from Taylor-Broderick.
Running without an interval, the play has Roberts as an excitable young boy who runs from the audience on to a stage cluttered with crates, a table, a ladder, suspended bicycle wheels, hanging cardboard, paper on strings and many curious other odds and ends.
The lad arrives in a scruffy school uniform, clutching his ears, barely audible as he feverishly jabbers away, drowned by an amplified soundtrack of a mob of children making fun of him.
Then, when the din dims, he tells us about hating being made fun of, but being taught that sticks and stones may break his bones but words will never harm him.
He then, through careful direction, clever use of props, and an increasingly fascinating performance by Roberts, goes on to explain that while words may in fact carry weight – which he sets out to demonstrate physically – nothing broken cannot be fixed.
He draws us into his world, an untidy workshop that his ever-sad mother seldom visits anymore, where he strives to be inventive in making the ugly, broken or discarded beautiful and new.
He looks on the bright side, creating new things from old. Then his story bleeds from the fun and frivolous into one increasingly poignant and personal, where the rehabilitation of things broken and discarded gets to include people and hearts.
The ending is a surprise that is pure genius, pure magic.
Realised by Taylor-Broderick with the help of some of the finest technical and theatrical minds in the country, this play is as much a delight the second time around as when I first saw it in 2019. Do yourself a big, big favour and don’t miss it!
Performances are at 7pm on November 4, 10 and 11, and at 2.30pm on November 5, 6 and 12. Tickets cost R130 (R110 concessions) and are available in advance through Webtickets. There is guarded parking on the school grounds at 20 Gleneagles Drive, and refreshments will be on sale.