Heroin(e) for Breakfast

A high energy, jovial start introduces us to a young couple getting down to some sexy time. There’s an initial indication that all is not well when the male protagonist fails to maintain his erection, and in following scenes, we are introduced to his flatmate – a ‘junkie slag’. Then we fall head first into the abyss of ‘Tommy’s’ soliloquy, a self-appointed champion of "the ignored, neglected and abandoned" bewailing a snowflake generation of Ed Sheeran loving arseholes worried about the property ladder.

A powerfully creative, bold exploration of the heroin phenomenon which ravages the UK

Lee Bainbridge excels with his depiction of Tommy, in this piece written and directed by Philip Stokes. We hate Tommy – he is the stark embodiment of everything raw, nasty and despicable in the UK. He’s disgustingly racist, horrifyingly misogynistic and revels narrating a gruesome tale of being wanked off by a pensioner at a war memorial. Paradoxically, there’s also an element to Tommy’s character that implies depth – he breaks the fourth wall to abuse the audience, mocking our need to analyse character arcs and the like, claiming we "reek of broadsheets and middle class cash".

Amy-Lewise Spurgeon turns the performance on its head as she appears in a puff of smoke and a crescendo of music; a heroin epiphany who renders Tommy spellbound and docile. Switching between nurturing and coercively controlling, this sultry and sadistic seductress has no mercy. The personification of heroin as a seductive mistress is not a new concept, though neither is this production. It was brought to the Fringe by Stokes ten years ago, and has now returned, carved with a post modern edge and still just as relevant now as it was at its inception. We watch on as Lady Heroin enslaves Edie, played convincingly by Kiera Parker, and reignites the attentions of Kirsty Anne Green’s depiction of Chloe, a promising student brought to her knees by Tommy and heroin many years previous.

Overall this is a powerfully creative, bold exploration of the heroin phenomenon which still ravages the UK. Tommy’s rallying cry that heroin is the mechanism that will make our country great again is particularly poignant, considering everything it takes from him. And perhaps this gives the audience an insight into why all over the country, people are willing to give up on everything for this temptress who will leave them with nothing. There couldn’t have been a better fit in terms of Amy-Lewise Spurgeon’s portrayal of our Heroin(e), this formidable personality who so convincingly leads our protagonists on their final dance.

A criticism of the piece is that some of the language, whilst perhaps lending a shock factor to proceedings ten years ago, in the context of 2019 is just simply unacceptable. Using ‘the n word’ and several other racist slurs was unnecessary, and grated on our ears like sharp nails down a blackboard. We already despited the arrogant sloth of Tommy before these words were used, and their continued use throughout the performance was needless. This is still an hour of incredibly powerful and interesting theatre - without this distraction, the audience can fully immerse themselves in the subject at hand.

Reviews by Jodie McVicar

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Can heroin put the Great back in Britain? Three flatmates battle Marilyn Monroe, cultural identity and snowflake mediocrity to save us all! In 2009 Philip Stokes' ***** (Scotsman, Sunday Telegraph, Fest) award-winning play exploded at the Edinburgh Fringe. Now ten years later, its original creative team reunite to revisit the play in a new production where today its prophecy and warning has become a reality. 'Quite astonishingly accomplished, so beautifully written, that it takes one’s breath away' **** (Sunday Telegraph). 'An astonishingly intelligent piece of work' ***** (Fest).

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