Ruby Bruise

Ruby Bruise VitalstatistixPresented by Vitalstatistix and The Misery Children
Reviewed Wednesday 20th October 2010

Venue: Waterside, 11 Nile Street, Port Adelaide
Season: 8pm on 21-23 and 27-30 October
Duration: 70min
Tickets: waged $25/conc $20/fringe Benefits $18
Bookings: 8447 6211 or

Sarah Brokensha, Elena Carapetis, Nathan O’Keefe and Ellen Steele play the role of Ruby Bruise. That sentence alone should be sufficiently intriguing to send you out for a ticket, especially with those four names involved. Add the names of Finegan Kruckemeyer as the writer and Daisy Brown as the director and you are assured of something worth seeing. That adds up to a lot of experience and a history of successful productions. This work was developed as part of the 2009 Vitalstatistix INCUBATOR residency but has been six years in the making.

Amy Milhinch and Wendy Todd joined forces to design the set and, in so doing, have erected a large white tent in the middle of the Waterside Hall that becomes a canvas for Mark Pennington to paint with his lighting design and shadow puppetry. The audience enter the tent, becoming both immersed in the set design and a part of the production. It offers a womblike safety. To one side sits composer, Mario Spate, controlling the recorded music and adding live piano, an extremely evocative background to the life of Ruby. The audience become absorbed in and by everything that happens, cocooned away from the outside world, caught up in the surreal world of Ruby Bruise. The four actors are dressed similarly, but not quite identically.

From her birth, Ruby ages at 10,000 times the normal speed, reaching maturity by the afternoon. This journey is told by degrees by the four performers, each an aspect of her personality, her psyche. These diverse parts of Ruby egg one another on, argue, engage in harsh self criticism, play games for all they are worth and occasionally achieve unity. We hear her inner dialogue. The four actors are dressed similarly, but not quite identically, emphasising this relationship between the various facets of Ruby. All four are wholehearted about what they do and inject a wonderful playfulness and energy into the production, clearly relishing the chance to revert to their childhoods to portray Ruby as a little girl, in the early stages of the work.

It is not all light and bright, however, and as Ruby ages we see the dark side of her thoughts, including her suicidal tendencies, a self-destructive streak. As she ages there is a more introspective and reflective quality in evidence and she finally looks back, to discourse with her child self.

Kruckemeyer has written a number of plays aimed at children and this influence can be seen in some of the joyously unrestrained scenes, such as the comical magic act in which Ruby seeks attention, repeatedly calling out “look at me, look at me”. He also deals well with the more adult themes, as Ruby enters puberty, discovers sex and becomes depressed. Brown has not only directed this as a play but has added another layer of interest, giving a choreographic beauty to the piece through a wide range of movement.

Coupling that very rich performance with the physical changes in the tent, the varied lighting, the complex music and the intimate location between the audience and the performers, locked together within the confines of the set, this work has a powerful immediacy and makes a strong connection. There is, of course, much in Ruby’s story that will reflect memories from our own lives.

This is yet another fine piece of work that makes the trip to Port Adelaide well worthwhile. Seating is limited, so don’t delay with booking your ticket.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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