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Review: Beyond the Break at Belvoir St Theatre

Review by Anja Bless

Written and performed by the captivating Challito Browne, Beyond the Break is a must-see hybrid of theatre and performance poetry now showing at Belvoir St Theatre, supported by 25A. All the more poignant in light of the lead up to and result of the recent Voice referendum, Beyond the Break explores what it is like to be a young man growing up in Australia when you’re the opposite of blonde-haired and blue-eyed.

Beyond the Break is about heritage and belonging, how our lineages can give us strength and connection to strangers, but can also create a sense of isolation. Browne takes us on a journey from learning to worship a rugby team, to abuse of power by police, to auditioning to play a potato, to farewelling a cherished grandparent. The way Browne weaves poetry and prose together makes for beautiful theatre. Where so often words feel overly formal or stilted on stage, Browne’s poetry flows and softens the expository nature of the piece. Balance is also created, no doubt with help from director Bobbie-Jean Henning, through Browne’s easy and charming comedic acting. The heaviness of Beyond the Break’s themes necessitates the relief of humour, and Browne gives the audience room to laugh and feel just comfortable enough to hear his words all the more closely. Because Browne’s message is powerful. He portrays the experience of so many Australians and immigrants to this country, where you are treated differently because of how you look. Sometimes through micro-aggressions, and other times through more physical and psychological aggressions too. It is a challenge that this nation seems still unwilling to truly grapple with. Browne comforts the audience that it’s okay if they can’t fully relate to his experience or walk in his shoes, but Beyond the Break certainly builds such an engrossing story and offers such an inviting exploration of culture and heritage that you feel like at least you are tracing Browne’s footsteps.

Browne’s writing and performance are only further enhanced by the thoughtful and transporting set design by Brendan de La Hay and lighting by Frankie Clarke. The sound design by Johnny Yang also deserves mention for its vignettes of the sounds of Sydney life mixed with whispers from ethereal muses and wails of grieving queens.

Beyond the Break is a story every Australian should hear. Whether to feel a sense that a part of their story is being told on stage, or to listen to a story that this nation should have heard and understood a long time ago. Browne, both his performance and his words, deserves as big an audience as possible. This is Australian theatre at its finest and it will be exciting to see where Browne and Beyond the Break go next.

Image Supplied


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