EFR - Reviews of Broken Biscuits

Broken Biscuits

Mon 24th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Stasia Carver

at 11:09 on 26th Aug 2015

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Fresh from two sell-out runs in Liverpool, Broken Biscuits - Trisha Duffy’s debut play - examines the impact of war on the families left behind. This kitchen sink drama doesn’t say anything new, but a beautifully observed script and extremely strong performances from the two leads make for a compelling and moving piece.

The play is essentially one long conversation between neighbours Rita (Leanne Martin) and Maggie (Jane Hogarth), like sisters to one another for twenty years until one of their sons is killed saving the other in Afghanistan. Grieving mother Rita hasn’t left her house in months; now, in a final bid to salvage their relationship, Maggie pauses at her friend’s front door en-route to a neighbour’s party and pleads to be let in.

The pair never come face to face, the two halves of this story playing out in parallel on the two sides of this door, placed alongside one another onstage. Inside, Rita has already embarked upon the evening’s descent into the depths of a whisky bottle, the atmosphere painfully raw as she rocks between tortured reminiscing and bitter abuse. In the wrong hands, the intensity of a bereaved mother’s grief could prove overwhelming or even lose its power altogether, but Duffy avoids this without reverting to sentimentality.

Maggie, perched on an upturned recycling bin in her leopard-print dressing-gown and slippers, consistently infuses the scene with warm humour; Louise Garcia is hilariously familiar in her brief appearance as drunken teenage Molly, stumbling round stage.

For fringe-goers seeking the controversial or the especially innovative, Broken Biscuits will not be an urgent priority. The play joins an already substantial corpus of literature drawing attention to the women left behind in wartime, and does so without particularly challenging its audience - Trisha Duffy is reminding us of things we all know and value already: the collateral damage of war; the importance of family and friendship.

Those looking for a critique of the Afghanistan war should likewise go elsewhere: Duffy avoids any kind of political or moralising comment. What this play offers is instead a warm and stirring portrayal of love, loss and above all female friendship, convincingly and compellingly brought to life by extremely impressive performances all-round.

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Megan Erwin

at 15:38 on 26th Aug 2015

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Broken Biscuits bills itself as a piece of theatre ‘detailing the devastating effects of war on the families who are left behind’. While it is clearly rooted in concern about the global and universal phenomenon of war and the mental and physical wounds it inflicts, the staging of the play itself is focussed on the intimate, the personal and the particular – a sanctimonious sermon or political manifesto this is not.

Broken Biscuits creates a microcosm of the pain and emotional fall-out of warfare through portraying the relationship between two women who are friends and mothers, Rita (Leanne Martin) and Maggie (Jane Hogarth). The play is almost solely an extended conversation between Rita and Maggie and it is refreshing to see the focus on two middle-aged women and their emotional depth and difficulties.

It is also nice to see characters with strong regional accents that are not defined by them – yes, both women are working class and not from the home counties, but the in-depth exploration of their relationship, their fears and their hopes, also makes them complex and multifaceted, which one sees all too rarely on stage or screen.

Rita has locked herself away, literally and metaphorically, after her son was killed in the Afghanistan war taking a bullet to save his best friend, Maggie’s son. Shutting herself in her house in haze of whiskey, painkillers and old photographs, Rita cuts herself off from her best friend Maggie, resenting the fact that her son escaped unscathed. Maggie comes to try and drag her to a party across the road, but facing Rita’s point-bank refusal to open the door, she ensconces herself outside, perching precariously on an upturned recycling bin, and attempts to cajole and chastise Rita into letting her in.

Leanne Martin’s performance as Rita is intense and convincing as a distraught mother falling apart at the seams, but personally I thought the play peaked emotionally too soon. Within the first ten minutes we see Rita in tears, writhing in paroxysms of grief, which is incredibly affecting but essentially leaves Martin nowhere else to go.

The play feels like it only has two settings – hysterical anguish or light-hearted banter. I found this not only slightly exhausting viewing, but also rather monotonous. As good as Martin and Hogarth's performances are, they inevitably become less powerful and affecting as the play continues and essentially delivers more of the same.

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