To call Fragments a loose adaptation of Euripides’ play Cresphontes would be an oversimplification, but then there are very few simple statements that could be made about this play from exciting new theatre company, Potential Difference.
Before the show began it was introduced by co-writer and director, Russell Bender, as a work in progress, who said they hoped to receive feedback on the play in order to further craft the show into its final form.
Like many classical Greek texts, Cresphontes now only survives in a fractured state – pieced together through whatever faded shreds of written evidence remain, and fleshed out over time through artistic interpretations. By enlisting the audience as part of the storytelling process, Russell encouraged us to overlook the inherent flaws of watching an unfinished play by inviting us to puzzle over the mysteries of its central plot while revelling in its constant stylistic reinvention.
Sarah Quist maintained her playful portrayal of the play’s immortal narrator, Muse, delivering her spoken lines as lasciviously as her vocals in the play’s various jazz interludes. The remaining ensemble tackled their demanding roles with aplomb, complementing the play’s chaotic tone perfectly by regularly shifting between physical and naturalistic portrayals of characters. The ensemble should also share considerable praise with the director and technical team for their inventive use of lighting and stagecraft to visually convey huge stories and themes integral to the plot. It was Bella Heesom’s nuanced and convincing portrayal of the tragic matriarch, Merope, that impressed most, though, and left me wishing for more of that particular narrative strand.
The play ended abruptly, and one suspects this was not so much an intention of the play’s creators but rather an unavoidable byproduct of their narrative experimentation. Since the resulting performance was infuriatingly perplexing as often as it was profoundly entertaining, one must assume that co-writers Laura Swift and Russell Bender are equally as fascinated by the joy of misinterpretation as they are inspired by the epic themes explored within the source material. I will certainly keep an eye out for the finished product.