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Explore the unique intensity of teenage girl best-friendom in this warm, funny, metaphysical play by Lally Katz.
By Rima Sabina Aouf
September 12, 2011
By Rima Sabina Aouf
September 12, 2011

In the universe of human relationships, one burns brighter than any other, at any point able to explode and flood the world with light or to cave into a black hole. Teenage girl best friends: they're supernovas. The fuel is in component parts who haven't yet learnt to distrust or hold back and for whom boundaries of intimacy, sexuality, friendship and love are still fluid. With your bestie in tow and the whole future still verdant and uncharted, real-world restraints seem small indeed.

The world of Smashed is so small its protagonists stomp over the fragile paper-and-plywood houses, the doll-size model vehicles, the green grounds of suburbia. Hazel (Suzannah McDonald) and Ruby (Katherine Tonkin) have their heads quite literally in the stars. Their names are too good, and they know it. Everything is heightened; everything is possible.

The most beautiful thing about Smashed is that it sustains the special dynamics of its characters' relationship while throwing them into a metaphysical world where the past crashes into the future, memory blurs with fact and the mechanics of their friendship are strewn across the stage. A tragedy has occurred, they say but do not specify before unravelling the years of shared moments that led to it: performing a school science skit, supporting each other through loss and terror, imagining their lives as empowered businesswomen, cuddling, kissing and re-enacting Dirty Dancing.

This production first played six years ago in Melbourne, and it has now been revived through Griffin Independent with its parts — actors, director, set, sound — intact. You can see why: it's a perfect, enchanting, vivacious 45 minutes of theatre. It could even afford to be longer. Director Clare Watson and the team devised it in collaboration with playwright Lally Katz, and it's clearly a project that has stuck with them since.

As great as it will be to one day see this play with a new frame and young actors who match the nervy freshness of the characters, you worry you will miss the maturity of these performances and the poetry age brings to their "time travel". Tonkin has a lovely energy and wonderment as Ruby, and McDonald, as the louder, more dominant friend, communicates so much in times of wordlessness you feel the full dread of the impending tragedy.

Smashed is an extraordinarily powerful and self-aware piece of writing, at once recalling vividly the youthful sense of being the first person ever to authentically live in the world and having the wisdom of distance and reflection to know better. It's warm and funny. For half the audience at least, it'll take you back to your own old friendships. If there's something you've always wanted to say to your girlhood bestie, Katz and the crew have found the words.

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