A woman goes missing and no one knows how or why. On the surface she was a perfectly normal middle-aged woman, so what went wrong? In an immersive, interactive detective mystery, the audience helps Inspector Tilly find the clues to this disappearance buried deep the in the ephemera of the victim’s life.
The investigating began before the Inspector had even arrived, with audience members invited to rummage through boxed of old diaries and clothing, browsing the multitude of photographs and memorabilia pinned to board around the stage, in order to construct a loose idea of this missing woman, Elaine Paton. Upon arrival, Inspector Tilly explains that she and Elaine knew each other in their girlhood, but time and circumstance pushed them apart until, now, the Inspector can’t get in contact with her old friend, she’s fallen off the map. So, with the help of the detritus of Elaine’s life, the audience’s fresh perspective, and the Inspector’s intuition, Through the Cracks sets out to solve the disappearance of a woman who, by all appearances, had everything going for her.
Structured like a briefing within a police station, Through the Cracks had an added element of supernatural assistance for, as Inspector Tilly frequently ducked out for a bit of a nap or a quick ciggie, Elaine herself strolled on stage to reminisce about her childhood in Wales, her family’s move to Australia, and her early pursuit of acting in infamous Hollywood. While the Inspector guided the audience through evidence like birth certificates, childhood illustrations, and a range of play programs, Elaine added the personal memories attached to these objects, breathing a life of conflict and emotion into the objects left behind her.
The direction by Aarne Neeme worked well for the interactive elements of the production with clear signals to the audience about where their input was needed and how they could engage with the mystery of Elaine’s life. The performance of Paton as the Inspector was engaging as she developed a chummy working relationship with the audience and her assisting team. Paton’s script was also clever, adding layers to the relationship between Inspector Tilly and Elaine and blurring their boundaries subtly through Inspector Tilly’s sticky fingers amongst Elaine’s old clothes. The biggest let-down of the production, though, was a general air of under-rehearsal which meant the reveal of information was sometimes fumbled or poorly conveyed, while the transition between Elaine and Inspector Tilly’s perspective was also muddied and could have been sharper in execution. If all of these elements were tightened for a cleaner and more consistent production, then there would have been a greater pay-off in the final reveal, not only of Inspector Tilly’s identity but the overall thrust of the production as memoir.
While all the separate components of Through the Cracks including the clever premise, enthusiastic and engaging performance, the central message about homelessness, and themes of a woman’s lost identity were strong and the production enjoyable for those steeped in British crime dramas, the execution of the whole was clumsy and it undermined the powerful potential of the production.
Through the Cracks ran at Leichhardt Town Hall from September 1st – 3rd
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