Heroin(e) For Breakfast
Reviewed – 3rd November 2019
“ninety minutes of powerful and highly potent theatre”
A short way into “Heroin(e) for Breakfast”, the antagonist, Tommy, belligerently breaks down the fourth wall to abuse and accuse us: the audience. We’re watching and judging him, he decries. Tommy is an amalgam of everything that is nasty, brutish, despicable, misogynistic, racist and self-aggrandising. Lee Bainbridge gives us a stunningly uncompromising and fearless portrayal of an anti-hero. We are shocked into laughter. We are safe in our seats, watching and judging him, but the beauty of Bainbridge’s performance cajoles us into judging ourselves too.
We first meet Tommy as he’s indulging in an aggressive sex act with Edie – a young girl. She’s still at school but she’s ‘legal’, although we suspect Tommy really couldn’t care less. Perversely played for laughs it is not quite as graphic as the ensuing barrage of dialogue, during which we meet Tommy’s flatmate and ex-lover, Chloe. The two girls have a history which we discover in one of many twists later on. The love/hate triangle is established, and we know we are in for a rocky ride.
As the title would suggest, this is a play about addiction, and heroin is the heroine of the piece. Philip Stokes’ imaginatively abrasive script presents the drug in human form. Amy-Lewise Spurgeon, as Heroin(e), is a grotesque, Mephistophelian beauty. Again, we watch, powerless, the ravaging effects of her seduction and destruction of the trio. Spurgeon’s chilling performance, strangely sexless yet erotic, is wonderful and frightening in equal measure. “I don’t discriminate” she tells the audience before paraphrasing her own comment with the more pertinent “I don’t give a fuck”. She’s got a job to do; she’s temptress, seductress and mistress and she’s impassive to the body count that lies in her wake.
Kirsty Anne Green, as Chloe, is faultless as the recovering addict. A face chiselled hard with disdain she treats Heroin(e) with initial contempt, while Kiera Parker’s Edie is the ghost of addicts yet to come, ingenuously susceptible. Meanwhile Tommy is firmly in the throes of the love affair, seemingly in control. But it is Heroin(e) who calls the shots, injecting her toxic potency.
Undoubtedly this is, at heart, a study of the effects of heroin, which is still a problem in the UK; and perhaps the play is a little guilty of hammering the message home a bit to forcibly. But Stokes doesn’t moralise. This is a brave, quite surreal depiction of the tragic consequences of unchanneled and untreated addiction. A biting satire that swallows the subject whole and spits it back out at us. The skill of the writing allows a broader social commentary to slip in too, but with us barely noticing. It’s a dark road, pitched with the blackest humour, and ultimately searingly sad.
This is ninety minutes of powerful and highly potent theatre. The characters may be anti-heroes; tragic heroes even. But the cast, with their outstanding and unflinching performances are the true heroes of the night.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Heroin(e) For Breakfast
Previously reviewed at this venue: