Writer: Tom Wells
Director: James Grieve
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts
In recent years Tom Wells has become a young playwright to watch, creating heartfelt narratives and quirky characters. Broken Biscuits sees this formula brought to life within the setting of a beautifully designed garden shed.
It’s the summer holidays. The most important summer holidays; the one between school and college and Meg (Faye Christall) isn’t about to let Holly (Grace Hogg-Robbinson) and Ben (Andrew Reed) waste it. She has a plan, a plan that’ll see them change their social standings come September and ditch the ‘loser’ labels they’ve been unwillingly blessed with. They’re going to start a band. With a drum kit she bought from the Hospice shop down the road and blind determination Meg calls band practice and signs them up to a battle of the bands. Holly and Ben are a little less convinced that rock stardom is achievable, or that they want to change their social standing at all, but Meg can be very persuasive.
The characters are well-rounded and engaging, each having their own complicities. Meg is desperately unhappy about being a labelled loser. Bullied by the boy next door and teased about her weight and, although occasionally overbearing, she becomes the driving force behind the gang’s bid for change and her heart is in the right place.
Holly, a computer ‘geek’ loves code and electronics and a boy in a hat at Sainsbury’s that she’s never talked to. While Ben is unacademic, ‘100% gay’ and is dealing with his Mum’s new boyfriend. With words like ‘gay’, ‘geek’ and ‘fat’ banded around the play could all too easily become a hotbed for stereotyping, but its clever, honest writing makes sure that this is not the case.
Three strong performances from the young actors make this a charming watch. Although the dialogue can sometimes seem as if it is just for effect, occasionally feeling more like how adults think teenagers speak, rather than how they actually speak. However, these moments are fleeting and the real heartfelt connection comes through the songs. Each character sings to the rest of the group. These are the moments where we get to see their deepest feelings and hopes, in all their tender glory.
The main issue Broken Biscuits is the audience it targets. It’s a tender story about characters figuring out who they are and their place in the world, but who is it for? The narrative suggests school leavers but the tone makes it seem as though it’s aimed at a younger secondary school audience. Leaving the theatre, there were parents all around apologising to their children for all the swearing and talk of sex. Unfortunately, much like its characters, Broken Biscuits feels a little lost.