Breakfast Plays: B!rth

The Traverse Theatre sadly need to offer more than a bacon roll to make Breakfast Plays: B!rth worth getting up for. Whilst the addition of breakfast and a hot drink is a nice touch, they aren't enough to compensate for a dull performance. The theatre has invited four writers, each from different countries, to create a script on the theme of birth within their own cultures. A different show is performed each day, and I attended Choices by Stacey Gregg from the UK.

Filling the 9am slot with this monologue style of performance seems like an odd decision.

The inescapable problem with this format is that we are watching Breakfast Readings rather than Breakfast Plays. Script in-hand readings still have the potential to be lively and entertaining, but the uninspired staging of the production means that this opportunity is missed. Actress Tessa Parr stands at a lectern reading her third-person narrative off the pages in front of her, as if the audience is being lectured. She briefly gestures to two chairs on the stage as symbols for characters, but this is not developed and drops off the radar after the opening. Interjections are frequently made into a microphone in the form of conversations or private thoughts, but without variation in voice or performance, it fails to add much. Overall, the story is told rather than performed and a sleepy early morning audience needs more than this to hold their attention.

Stacey’s writing is somewhat emotive and thought-provoking. However, it loses its impact because she tries to incorporate too many themes surrounding birth into one script. Abortion in both England and Northern Ireland, miscarriage, birth control and problems conceiving are all addressed in a mere 45 minutes. The result is an over-complicated story that becomes difficult to follow when read aloud. The different characters floating in and out sometimes seems to border on chaos.

Stacey is clearly a talented writer. She has a warm sense of humour and her brief ‘meta-narrational’ asides into the process of writing feel insightful as well as original. However, an early audience needs something more interactive and engaging to stop them drifting off. Filling the 9am slot with this monologue style of performance seems like an odd decision. 

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Four countries. One global controversy. Leading female playwrights from Syria, USA, India and UK question their country’s approach to birth practice and the cultural pressures that surround it. Heartfelt and hard-hitting, these plays tackle one of the key issues today: the vast inequality in healthcare across the world. Each year, millions of women and children die from preventable causes. These are not mere statistics. Start your festival day with these script-in-hand performances, and enjoy a breakfast roll and tea/coffee with your ticket. Supported by the Oglesby Charitable Trust in partnership with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

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