Fragments: Journeys from Isolation to Connection, by Maura Pierlot
Highschool can certainly be challenging - with that constant juggle of friendship issues, worry over studies and achievement, and search for identity. But adolescents now are facing more stress and anxiety than ever - add in global warming, the onslaught of messages from social media, and a global pandemic - and mental health issues can spiral to new heights.
Fragments, written by Canberra playwright Maura Pierlot, enjoyed a sell-out season at the Street Theatre in Canberra in 2019. The story highlights the internal struggles of eight high school students and is presented as a series of eight monologues. The adolescents in this story are navigating issues of friendship, fractured families, insecurity, gender dysphoria, depression and anxiety.
The narrators take turns voicing their inner thoughts and fears, the intimacy of their revelations drawing the audience in. Among these narrators are Will who struggles with words but refuses to take medication that will make him the same as everybody else; Freya who keeps her constant battle with anxiety hidden from everyone around her; Reena who only feels confident when she uses filters on Instagram to change the way she looks; and school captain Mason who tries to hide his debilitating depression.
What these young people have in common is that they all feel that they are just a fragment, with parts that don't seem to fit to anyone or anything else. They are searching for connection. But they are afraid to reach out and voice their struggles to others, afraid to expose the most vulnerable parts of themselves.
Their voices are raw, intimate, compelling. We observe how all these characters, initially so isolated and afraid, slowly begin to gain strength from becoming aware of and connecting with others. I love that each character's voice is unique and insightful, and I have no doubt a teen audience would relate to at least one of these characters.
This story celebrates connection, resilience, and having the courage to reveal the vulnerable parts of ourselves. In doing so, we can seek connection and healing.
This would be a perfect play to study or perform with high school students - not just in Australia, but anywhere around the world. Themes of mental health, anxiety and low self-esteem are global, ensuring that this story is relevant to adolescents the world over. Studying this play in a high school setting could be used as a platform to initiate discussion around mental illness, social media and self-esteem, bullying, neurodivergence, and accepting people for who they are.
Fragments empowers adolescents to understand that others might be going through similar issues that they are struggling with.
Ultimately, this story offers hope, which is something we could all use a little bit of right now.
Published by Big Ideas Press