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Broken Biscuits review at Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – ‘bittersweet’

The cast of Broken Biscuits at Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
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In their shed-sanctuary, a trio of misfit teens are plotting their post-GCSE strategy. Their ringleader, Megan, informs them they're forming a band – they can learn to play their instruments later.

Shy shop-girl Holly (Grace Hogg-Robinson) and “100% gay” Ben obey initially, but then they decide to rebel against her bossiness. Tom Wells – whose past plays include the charming The Kitchen Sink and Jumpers for Goalposts – captures the way teenagers talk in this Paines Plough co-production with Live Theatre. The dialogue feels authentic while Matthew Robins' music and Wells’ lyrics feel like Victoria Wood for a new generation, especially when filtered through the geek-folk style of Hogg-Robinson’s singing.

The performances are lovely too. Faye Christall is bolshy and big-mouthed as Megan, while Hogg-Robinson entertains with her quirky, uber-geek character and Andrew Reed nails Ben’s glittery pathos. The emotional key changes, from silly to serious, could be more polished though.

The story arc, with the band contest looming, feels formulaic, but the songs are much more original: funny, confessional and well-crafted.  Lily Arnold’s shed set is endearingly cluttered, the charm is in the grubby details.  When it is trashed in a blackout, you’re left wondering just how they did it.

When the play delves into difficult issues, specifically around gender, it gets really interesting.  A song by Reed, performing in a dress, draws sympathy from some in the audience, awkward sniggers from others – a marker of a show that's doing what it should.

Verdict
Geek teens sing out in a bittersweet new play with songs
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