Heroin(e) for Breakfast

Philip Stokes
King Brilliant
Pleasance Dome
to

As one who for many years of Fringe-going enjoyed the work of Horizon Arts Theatre, now vanished in the ethereal manner of so many Fringe regular companies, it pains me that I never made it to see the company's final Fringe production. But as luck would have it, to herald in the 10th anniversary of its appearance at the Fringe, King Brilliant Theatre has resurrected the play, replete with a pair of Horizon Arts alumni amongst the cast.

The brainchild of Philip Stokes, Heroin(e) for Breakfast chronicles the troubling events that occur in the flat of a 30-something English lad named Tommy (Lee Bainbridge). He dosses about there, ignoring or having copious sex with his new and decidedly young girlfriend, Edie (Kiera Parker), much to the consternation of his long-suffering and irritable flatmate, Chloe (Kirsty Anne Green).

It's into this amusing, but slightly silly looking setting that the first major curveball is thrown. Tommy heads off into town to pick up supplies for breakfast and returns promising that, very shortly, "the heroine" will arrive. And arrive she does, in form of a vamped-up and dangerous Marilyn Monroe (Amy-Lewise Spurgeon), but this screwball situation is a lot more, and a lot darker, than it initially seems.

It's a twisted and constantly evolving play, where the cast have a lot to work with on various levels. Each of the main three actors has a moment or two to shine and to explore the intricacies of the relationships between them as well as the effects on the trio created by the idealised personification of the drug. Bainbridge is wonderfully despicable as every mother's worst nightmare of a boyfriend for their daughter, but manages against all odds to drag some sympathy from the audience. This contrasts nicely with Parker's performance as the reluctant but steely ingenue, easily swayed but ready to bite back.

The real meat of the emotional heart of the piece falls largely to Green as Chloe, who gradually steals the sympathetic heart of the play as it winds down its inevitably tragic path. That's not to belittle the performance of Spurgeon, but as a hyper-realised and fantastical figure in the piece, there's as little depth to the character as there is to the deeper meaning found at the bottom of a nickel bag.

There are some wonderfully ingenious touches to the play as well; a latter point costume change for Spurgeon is particularly amusing, and presumably an addition created for this production. The various asides that Tommy has with the audience, that act as a sort of semi-aware Brechtian wink, certainly amuse. There is however no getting away from there being a definite sense of things being dragged out, particularly during the first half of the play. The early scenes and the musical sex chase round the stage that opens the play drag a little, certainly until the characters are fully established. The grim inevitability also never feels in any doubt, which isn't so much a gripe as it is a sad reflection on society in general.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan