Five hours is a long time for everyone – it’s a long time for a viewer, it’s a long time for an actor, and it’s a long time to have an excruciating conversation about your relationship with your partner. This is just what
Break Up reminds us that just one conversation can start to peel two bananas and unravel a relationship in front of your eyes.
The show started with a drawing of straws to play characters, the lighting of a candle and five Kiwi actors and actresses dressed up as bananas. Then the conversation began. Binge Culture invite the audience to observe and listen to a dialogue between two partners over the course of several hours – you are encouraged to live-tweet, to leave whenever you feel like, and to return if you wish. This meant that the room surged and dwindled throughout the two to three hours I stayed at the performance. (I opted to stay for between two and three hours as I this was around the amount of time someone might ‘typically’ spend at a show.)
There are five members to this cast and they all take it in turns to play the two characters, Partner A and Partner B. Partner B is always played by one, singular cast member sitting towards the front of the stage. Partner A consists of four cast members, who take it in turns to speak as the character; the complicated part of this performance is that all five members constantly rotate. The rotating roles and lack of script led to some interesting improv discussions and allowed each cast member to bring a different flavour and emotional element to the personalities of both partners. I left briefly at one point and came back to a new rotation, with someone else sitting in the front of the stage as Partner B and I could definitely feel a change in the dynamic of the performance.
The entire performance was like eavesdropping on a private conversation between two lovers. It’s something anyone can relate to, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s something I enjoyed revisiting. There was a lot of emotionally manipulative language, shouting and horribly still silences; all elements that often frequent break-up conversations. The set-up of the show meant that the individual on their own seemed more under pressure and like they were being ganged up on – a clever and effective technique but one that made me feel bad for the helpless individual cast member. However, I think this was what Binge Culture wanted us to feel – stirred and uneasy, exposed to the nasty side of human nature, when love turns sour.
Whilst I didn’t stay for the further demise and break-down of the relationship, I found the first part of the show really funny at times, but mostly it felt like I was intruding on a personal conversation, which left me feeling quite uncomfortable. Yet, strangely, I found myself wanting to know more and more about the relationship, taking sides without realising and secretly hoping that the bananas did not ‘split’.
Despite the discomfort, the unscripted nature of the show meant there were some hilarious snippets – with one of our bananas needing to compose himself several times to stop breaking down in giggles. The show weaved through a variety of topics – porn, sex, betrayal, family, hobbies and our characters’ empathy levels – and made for raw and emotional viewing at times. Break Up reminds us that just one conversation can start to peel two bananas and unravel a relationship in front of your eyes.