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Burning Bridges review at Theatre503, London – ‘an uncompromising character study’

Simon Bubb and Rae Brogan in Burning Bridges at Theatre 503. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Written by Amy Shindler – the creator of Pat and Cabbage, also known for her role as Brenda Tucker on The Archers – Burning Bridges makes for a rather puzzling debut play. It tells the story of a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who comes to stay with her sister and starts to pull her life, and marriage, apart.

At first 25-year-old Sarah causes gentle chaos with her angry reactions to people and the world. Intelligent (though not a savant), obliviously honest (while not humourless), unworldly (but sexually experienced) she is fully individuated in both writing and through a precise performance from Rae Brogan.

Sarah is already causing tensions when she begins to find her sister’s husband Dan attractive, leading an awkward scene that veers close to a staged Penthouse letter.

The slightly underwritten Kate (Anne Adams) is placed in the most dramatic position in the second half, as she chooses between her sister and her husband. No easy sit-com reunions or restoration for this family are available. This is the most interesting thing about Burning Bridges – it’s about what people can’t forgive, even when neurologically atypical individuals are concerned and forgiveness is assumed to be the default action.

While the character work on display is strong from the three main performers, Sally Knyvette’s production, with its long scene changes featuring underproduced original music from composer Tim Phillips, tests the audience’s patience, and designer Max Dorey’s naturalistic set proves rather inflexible, bland and unsupportive of Shindler’s writing.

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An uncompromising character examination that’s left to flounder in a bland production