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

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

Production

Production
Broken Biscuits
Venue
Live Theatre
City
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Starts
October 5, 2016
Ends
October 22, 2016
Press night
October 11, 2016
Authors
Tom Wells
Music
Matthew Robins
Director
James Grieve
Set
Lily Arnold
Lighting
Joshua Pharo
Sound
Dominic Kennedy
Stage manager
Aimee Woods (stage manager), Ben Pavey (technical stage manager)
Cast includes
Faye Christall, Grace Hogg-Robinson, Andrew Reed
Producer
Paines Plough and Live Theatre
Running time
1hr 30mins