Horizon Arts @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
7:45pm, Mon 8 Mar 2010
There were precious few shows this year that seemed to generate the same amount of buzz as Heroin(e); it certainly did well in the word-of-mouth stakes, and The Studio was packed for this performance.
The set is the interior of a squalid flat in Great Britain, its residents demoralised and apathetic, but not above pontification. As their day-to-day life descends into a hazy quagmire of drugs and debauchery, the Marilyn Monroe-esque Heroine (played by Hayley Shillito, who thoroughly deserves all the plaudits thrown her way) appears as an angelic, dream-like temptress to the protagonist, Tommy, leading him and his friends into a downward spiral of decay.
But, for all the seediness of the lives of Tommy and his flatmates, Chloe and Edie, their deepening despair is not the main thrust of the play; it is, instead, merely a thinly-veiled parallel to writer/director Philip Stokes’ view of modern England. Despite the sombre content, a lot of the dialogue is played for laughs, but Stokes’ humour seems to be derived from the British Alternative comedy scene of the early eighties; Craig McArdle’s Tommy can fill the room with his voice, and it all gets a little bit shouty… and, worse, a bit tiresome.
But the writing and direction really is bloody great; there’s plenty of fourth-wall breaking with both Tommy and Heroine directly addressing the audience, and the audience-directed screams of Chloe and Edie as Heroine leads them away to die were sobering. And any show with girl-girl kissing (you could hear the squelching lips as Heroine seduced Chloe) gets a big tick in my book.
Let’s get one thing clear – Heroin(e) for Breakfast contains some fucking amazing stuff. The direction is stunning, and the production contains some amazing flourishes that are utterly mesmerising and there are times where you feel like you’re watching something of Great Importance. But, unfortunately, there were also times where I felt like I was being lectured to by a high school play; Heroine’s constant references to Tommy as a hero felt heavy-handed and overused (and, in one case, almost sent me to sleep), the parallels between their drug-fuelled destruction and modern Britain likewise.
Don’t get me wrong, this was pretty bloody impressive stuff – bits just rubbed me the wrong way.