Tag Archives: Jasmine Blackborow

The Breach

The Breach


Hampstead Theatre

The Breach

Hampstead Theatre

Reviewed – 12th May 2022



“The performances are uniformly magnificent: honest and brutal. Yet it stops just short of drawing us in emotionally”


Towards the end of Naomi Wallace’s “The Breach”, the joint protagonist, Jude, is imagining a version of the past that didn’t happen, but could have. It takes a while to get there but the scene encapsulates both the power and impotence of hindsight. The characters wrestle with regret, bereavement and guilt, but more so with the question of whether that could have been avoided had they acted differently.

The play jumps between 1977 and 1991, initially as two very different worlds but gradually they overlap and the two separate decades bear witness to each other. Set against a completely bare stage there is little to differentiate the two ages. Different actors play the younger and older versions of the characters. Between the scenes a stark line of white light sweeps the stage, brushing them away like skittles to replace them with their counterparts.

We begin in the seventies, in small town America, a time of restlessness, turbulence, political scandal and a questioning of traditional authority (there are extensive, weighty articles in the programme notes depicting the profound effects on the American youth of the Vietnam War and ‘Neoliberalism’ – although not touched upon at all in the script). Seventeen-year-old Jude (Shannon Tarbet) has taken it upon herself to protect her younger brother Acton (Stanley Morgan). They spend their days in the basement of their modest home creating their own world. Frayne (Charlie Beck) and Hoke (Alfie Jones) gate-crash this world – not so much friends of Acton but emotional racketeers. Conditions are laid and sacrifices must be made. Inevitably the bond between brother and sister is snapped in two. In hindsight, the love they shared that could have prevented this is the exact same love that caused it.

So, you cannot escape the actions of the past then. But can you learn from them? Tellingly there is no casting for the older Acton, but Jude (Jasmine Blackborow), Frayne (Douggie McMeekin) and Hoke (Tom Lewis) reconvene fourteen years later. As each snapshot of 1991 plays out onstage, more is revealed of the dangerous games the teenagers played, focusing on many issues – most notably sexual consent. A lot is said today about how it was a ‘different time’, back then. But accountability (rightly or wrongly) has no limits. As these thirty-somethings examine their past, one wonders who the victims and who the culprits are. And are the intervening years of guilt and atonement enough or should further punishment be executed? This play, while never giving us a succinct answer, suggests we punish ourselves enough. There are no winners.

Sarah Frankcom’s sharp and efficient direction matches Wallace’s writing which is as penetrative as ever. The performances are uniformly magnificent: honest and brutal. Yet it stops just short of drawing us in emotionally. We don’t quite see the fragility, fear and loneliness that lies beneath the rough exterior. Which is a shame, and a surprise. Based partially on past experience, it seems that Wallace has poured a lot of her own heart into the writing; but ultimately it appeals more to the intellect than to our hearts.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson


The Breach

Hampstead Theatre until 4th June


Recently reviewed at this venue:
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022


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A Winning Hazard – 4 Stars


A Winning Hazard

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 10th September 2018


“beguiling pictures of money, marriage and manipulation, brought to life by inspirational director Phillip James Rouse and a talented cast”


The Finborough Theatre celebrates its home’s 150th anniversary in stylish and exhilarating fashion. In a slick lark of an evening we rediscover three comediettas by J.P. Wooler who humorously observes the hypocritical values of affluent Victorian society. Reputed for his inebriated opinions, his hidden treasures are beguiling pictures of money, marriage and manipulation, brought to life by inspirational director Phillip James Rouse and a talented cast. Keeping the work in its original period with fitting music (Julian Starr) and costumes (Martelle Hunt), Rouse gives it a contemporary feel in pace and movement. In the intimate space of this theatre we fully appreciate the amusing facial expressions and capering activity and, with a garden bench as the only prop to set the scene, the small stage and side doors create fast-moving and arresting action.

The six actors work perfectly as an ensemble as well as each bringing their own particular style to the roles. In ‘A Winning Hazard’, Dudley Croker and Jack Crawley, on learning that they will be disinherited if they fail to marry, desperately attempt to win the hands of Coralie and Aurora Blythe. The two suitors, played by Max Marcq and Edward Mitchell, and their sweethearts (Josephine Starte and Evelyn Lockley) form beautifully balanced and contrasting pairs as the story takes on improbable proportions. ‘Allow Me to Apologise’ is a farcical story of cross-dressing intrigue. With an amusingly fanciful plot, Jasmine Blackborrow is a comedically versatile Fanny Fairlove who, recently returned to Bath, disguises herself as Goliath Goth and rekindles a previous courtship with Hariette Seymour. The situation complicates with the appearance of the real Goth, in a wonderfully funny interpretation by Edward Mitchell, and Captain Seymour who steals Fanny’s heart. The play ends with a touching apology by Fanny to Hariette, giving the narrative a modern undercurrent.

To round up the trilogy, ‘Orange Blossoms’ sees Max Marcq in an explosive tour de force as Septimus Symmetry, renowned woman-hater, who is on the verge of losing his inheritance for not marrying before he is thirty five. When a group of friends arrives at his house, he finds himself in the middle of dangerous past liaisons and unfulfilled love within the couples, and is also surprisingly attracted to Loo who has come with them. He decides to stir up trouble between his guests to illustrate the fatuity of marriage. Robert Benfield is Colonel Clarence in a discerning portrayal of the older husband and his young wife, Isabella Clarence, is another of Josephine Starte’s distinctive characters.

Wooler puts across his irreverent views through amplified characters, absurd situations and witty dialogue. The writing does have its structural flaws – loose ends in the storyline, contrived endings and some less complete personalities – but this is artistically shaped and embellished by Rouse and his troupe. We can sit back and enjoy a frolicsome and uplifting insight into the lives and minds of the Victorian idle rich.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Scott Rylander


A Winning Hazard

Finborough Theatre until 25th September



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