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Break Yourself review at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton – ‘rare precision’

Ira Brand in Break Yourself at Marlborough Theatre, Brighton. Photo: Ellie Stamp Ira Brand in Break Yourself at Marlborough Theatre, Brighton. Photo: Ellie Stamp

Performing in male drag, Ira Brand plays Ollie, an unassuming graphic designer who finds power and release in the music (and, indeed, persona) of Bruce Springsteen.

Break Yourself a piece about gender, sexuality and what the people we admire – as well as those we desire – tell us about ourselves. Springsteen is a smart choice for a show exploring masculinity. On the one hand, he’s a solid gold rock god famed for his legendary stamina (as anyone who ever missed the last bus home from one of his gigs will confirm) but on the other, he sings about the fragility of the American blue collar male: ambition unrealised, lives forestalled and frustrated. The fact that he has some thumping good tunes doesn’t hurt the production, either, adding fierce energy to what otherwise could have been a static piece.

Not everything works as well – an audience Q and A section falls flat, and there are some moments that feel like filler. But Brand is a writer and performer of rare precision – even in the seemingly casual, rambling stories of awkward sexual encounters, language is wielded like a scalpel, words are polished into poetry, and the smallest gestures speak volumes. With a little more honing, this could be a truly compelling show.

 

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Verdict
Slightly uneven but acutely observed solo show powered by great Springsteen songs  
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