Like a Fishbone

Like a Fishbone

Early Worx, Higher Ground East. 28 Feb 2013

A shabbily dressed woman with wet hair stands with her back to the audience at one side of the room, rocking backwards and forwards ever so slightly.

The room seems to be an office, maybe an architect’s office (there are shelves of plans on one side of the room). On a trestle table in the middle is a large colourful model of a small country town complete with church and school house. The model is enclosed in a large perspex display box.

Suddenly another woman bursts in through the upstage glass door.  Well dressed, an executive type; the architect.  This character is the complete opposite of the women who rocks slowly.

The architect will soon go to a town meeting to present her model of a memorial to the town’s children, who were shot to death in their school house by a lone gunman. The woman is the mother of one of the dead children.

‘Like a Fishbone’ is a complex piece of dramatic theatre. It grindingly reveals the gulf between a mother who has lost her young daughter and an architect and separated mother whose model will become the monument to the dead children of the town.

The play by Brisbane playwright, Anthony Weigh, was premiered in the UK in 2010 and seems even more relevant today with the still fresh memory of the US Sandy Hook primary school gun deaths at the end of 2012.

The premise of the script is clear. How do you memorialise the loss of innocent young lives that can never be replaced? Who gets to choose the memorial, the community or a selection panel? Where does humanity sit in the whole process?

The dialogue between the two main protagonists is tight, staccato, and often over lapping. The architect and the grieving mother talk at each other rather than to each other.  Tension builds between them throughout the play until it can be contained no longer.

Shannon Mackowski, as the architect, sustains the drive of a powerful woman in a remarkably taut and frenetic performance.  She shows the architect’s determination that her artistic vision is delivered at all costs, even if it means debasing another woman’s core values.

Rebecca Calandro, as the intern, brings a gentle, almost innocent ambiance to the character of the young trainee architect caught in the middle. She does her best with a part that lacks meat.

Amy Victoria Brooks, as the grieving mother, brings insight to the role and a commendably restrained performance. Her portrayal is just right for this sight handicapped, ordinary small town mother speaking for the other ordinary mothers who have lost their loved ones. But there is fire just under the surface and it is suddenly released towards the end of the play. Brooks delivers totally on all levels.

Director Charles Sanders and assistant director Romina Verdiglione have kept a tight reign on both the action and the tension as it builds.  In lesser hands, this production may easily have drifted into trite melodrama.

The set design by Jenn Havelberg is functional, understated, and well fitted to this temporary venue. 

When the distraught small town mother cries out in anguish “What is the real value of a monument?”, we are all reminded that children always come first.  Even the architect cant respond to this compelling truth.

The external noise coming from the beer garden took something away from this excellent local production, but it’s Fringe time, and allowances have to be made.

Well worth a trip to Higher Ground East to see the battle royal between Mackowski and Brooks with Calandro adding simple touches of humanity through her role as the intern.

Fine Fringe fare.

Martin Christmas


When: 28 Feb to 14 Mar

Where: Higher Ground East - Main Theatre