Everyone Keeps Broken Pens

The Free Fringe makes venues out of some interesting spaces, posing challenges to even the most experienced performer. For Everyone Keeps Broken Pens, I’m upstairs in Revolution Bar. I actually met Kate Mayne, the writer and sole performer of the piece, on my way in—she was doing some last-minute flyering.

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Everyone Keeps Broken Pens is, in many ways, character-driven. It’s a study of Kate’s character, in the form of a dramatized narrative. Naturally, this involves several characters. Kate seeks to exonerate her inner demons, or at least, bend them to her will in an act of self-improvement. Her struggle is a relatable one — we all face the same issues in dealing with the opinions of others, self-indulgence and competing with the pressures we mount upon ourselves. Kate incorporates these trials by literally bringing them to life, and then some. One character is played by a phone on a selfie-stick, which was a first for me.  The other characters were distinguishable by the unique voices and mannerisms that Kate attributed to them, as Everyone Keeps Broken Pens is of course a one-woman show. This sort of characterisation always tears me two ways— I appreciate that it’s a personal piece, so I can conceive of why Kate wanted to do it on her own. On the other hand, I find it pretty jarring watching one actor switch from character to character on the spot, just by a change of stance, gait, or diction. Given the subject matter of the piece, however, I feel I should make allowances.

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What makes Everyone Keeps Broken Pens enjoyable is its relatability, and enjoyable story. We have all, at one time or another, fallen victim to our “unhelpful thoughts.” Kate weaves an engaging story about a fictional hotel, where her thoughts work. The set is basically non-existent, given the venue, and some use of mimed walls serves to slightly disrupt immersion later in the show. But Kate’s attention to prop-use and costuming quickly remedies this, as do her amusing, personally-generated sound effects. The narrative is also littered with excellent word-play; it’s consistently impressive. Kate uses her voice effectively too— the venue is surprisingly large despite being part of a bar/restaurant. Some additional scoring wouldn’t have gone amiss. It might have bolstered the setting somewhat. That said, the characterisation is solid, despite the slightly jarring transitions. Kate Mayne shows serious range as a performer, she’s not one to be missed.

The Mayne Event are an emergent Glasgow-based Theatre Company. Though their run of Everyone Keeps Broken Pens has ended, it’d be worth your time to keep an eye out for what they do next.