DramaReviewSouth West

Broken Biscuits – Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Writer: Tom Well
Director: James Grieve
Reviewer: Kris Hallett

For Ben, Holly and Megan, their GCSE exams are behind them and a long summer of preparing to enter the ‘cool’ world of college awaits. It’s an opportunity to blow away past convention, to raise their social standings from geeky outsider to the hip in-crowd. Megan has a plan, to form a band and enter the college’s battle of the bands competition. No matter if the only music ability they have is Holly’s flute grades, in just nine weeks they will come up with a song that will make them ‘legends’ of their new college.

tell-us-block_editedWriter Tom Wells has always had the knack of being able to write confidently and fluently of society’s misfits and outsiders, and here offers another charming take that stands comparison with the best of his earlier works The Kitchen Sink and Jumpers For Goalposts. Undoubtedly there is something formulaic in its tale of three young people discovering and embracing who they are over the course of a long summer with nothing more than part-time jobs and fishing trips to sustain them. There are no surprises, only a checklist within his plot, but Wells writes with such care, sweetness and affinity for the teenage voice that by the end and a chance to finally hear the band in action the auditorium is swept up in a loving joy. We are Broken Biscuit groupies.

The issues the three characters face have been felt by all of us who have ever grown up. Megan is ‘too fat’, Ben ‘too gay’, Holly is pretty but wears glasses so no one notices her ‘just like in Hollywood films’. They are issues that feel specific to the young but resonate with all regardless of age: of feeling unattractive, of not plucking up the courage to talk to that person you like, of being scared to be yourself. These characters bluster with bravado and mess up but are fundamentally decent people, open, accepting, honest and caring. It is this genuine niceness (and how rare it is to find this in the theatre) that makes spending 90 minutes in their company such joy.

Director James Grieve draws strong performances from his three strong clan, Faye Christall as Megan is the mouthy, self-designated leader of the group who clings on to the past as the others move on with their futures, Andrew Reed finds his songwriting voice as he discovers his identity in a garish fascinator and sparkling dress while Grace Hogg-Robinson as the nerdy computer programmer Holly comes up with a new form of sound, geek-folk, in composer Matthew Robins’ straightforward but undoubtedly catchy tunes.

Lily Arnold’s claustrophobic shed design, which has its own coup de theatre moment in its last third, encloses the action in a space where you can imagine countless musicians crafted their first hit. If the band Broken Biscuits may not breach the Top 40 themselves, Wells is well on the way to achieving his own Gold Disc.

Runs until 26 November 2016 | Image: Richard Davenport

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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