Breaker

This tale of small island intrigue and memory, penned by Icelandic author Salka Gudmundsdottir, translated and brought to the stage by Scottish director Graeme Maley, transcends the linguistic and cultural leap to create a compelling narrative.

Daniel, a postgraduate drifter, gravitates toward the remote island his grandmother grew up on. Exploring a seemingly deserted schoolhouse, Daniel gets more than he bargained for when Sunna, the reclusive schoolteacher, apprehends him. What follows is a taut, ominous exploration of claustrophobia in small communities and the myths generated in the wake of traumatic events.

Both actors are discernibly Scottish, not only in accent but frequently also dialect. I didn’t realise the cultural origins of the story until I looked it up following the show, I was impressed by how neatly the story about a remote Icelandic community transferred itself to the context of the Scottish Hebrides.

Daniel (Iain Robertson) and Sunna (Isabelle Joss) clash from the off about the appropriation of cultural heritage, what right one has to stories which are not theirs. The tension between the pair is kept on a knife edge, though Sunna being so fierce and Daniel so ineffectual does seem an imbalanced conflict - she frequently threatens to remove him from the room, and could easily do so, but never goes through with it. The more romantic interlude to me felt disconnected, one can only buy into it if you accept that in this case rage and apparent hatred equals intense sexual chemistry: something in this case I remain skeptical of.

Also problematic was the fact that I was far more interested in Sunna’s history than Daniel’s: I found the sections of the play dedicated to him trying to uncover his grandmother’s secrets tedious and the character generally hapless.

An interesting ghost story with plenty of spine chills, tension and intrigue - but unfortunately lacking several elements to make it truly compelling.

Reviews by Laura Francis

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Performances

The Blurb

Caught up in nostalgia and myths, Daniel comes to a remote island but finds a terrible and tragic secret. Gripping and thought-provoking, Breaker is the winner of the Underbelly Edinburgh and Best Theatre Awards at the Adelaide Festival 2013.

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