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Melbourne Fringe: Broke by Rowena Hutson



Rosie loves D.I.Y. She loves to fix things. She likes to bake cakes. She likes to work with her hands when she can no longer trust her mind.

Broke, much like Rowena Hutson’s earlier show Strong Female Character, feels very personal – even if she’s hiding behind Rosie the Riveter overalls and Princess Leia’s hair-buns. The anger and the passion could be acting but it feels blisteringly real. The details don’t feel written, but lived. The shouting is fueled by pain and confusion and a genuine need to name her illness and share it.

Ro cares about her audience, though. There are trigger warnings at the start and a concern that her description of a panic attack might bring on a panic attack. But there’s really been no panic attack quite like this showstopping rock number with a large rubber brain and flying tendrils of tinsel. Hutson, as one of the Fringe Wives’ Club, knows how to theatricalise even the most painful of truths.

This is a smart show that could use a little tightening in some areas – certain phrases recur to the point of feeling repetitive. And while the connection between the patriarchy and Rosie’s anxieties seem clear, I would have liked that fleshed out a little more – especially in the moments when she projects her experience on the population at large.

If fifty percent of the audience will experience mental illness in their lifetime and two million Australian’s each year suffer some level of depression, Broke’s message of bringing things out into the light is essential and I look forward to seeing this show evolve to the next level.

All the pieces are there – hilarious, painful, feminist, confronting and comforting – Rosie and Rowena just need to find a way to construct this house a little better. But it's almost there.

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