Theatre Review - Biscuits for Breakfast

Set in Cornwall, Gareth Farr’s bittersweet play explores food poverty and an unexpected romance.

Joanne (Boadicea Ricketts) and Paul (Ben Castle-Gibb) meet in a bar. She’s been brought up in care, is tough, and a survivor, while he is shy, less sure of himself, and grieving the loss of his dad.

A trainee chef, Paul loves cooking and dreams of making this his career and writing a bestselling cookbook. He bonds with Joanna over a fish pie he cooks for them.

Paul is living in his brother’s flat when the hotel where they both work closes. Joanna loses her accommodation and moves in. She finds a job at the local factory preparing garlic bread, but Paul is reluctant to relinquish his dreams.

While Joanne works gruelling shifts in a racist environment, Paul becomes increasingly depressed. He listens to childhood tape recordings of his father, a fisherman who blames the loss of his livelihood on the EU. He urges Paul to do better and “dream big”. Life here, his dad observes, is like a game of snakes and ladders, without the ladders.

As they struggle to make ends meet, Joanne visits a foodbank in desperation. But Paul is deeply ashamed: “It’s for f***ers that need it. People with nothing.” There was a teacher and nurse there, Joanne responds “They’re all working…hanging their heads, just like I did.”  The row threatens to tear their relationship apart.

Tessa Walker’s production is played out on a traverse stage, bare except for a table, two chairs and a cassette player. This minimalism suits the play’s concerns and foregrounds the two performances, which are excellent. Rebecca Wield’s stylized choreography creates a palpable sense of supressed emotions and hunger.

Farr is a tad heavy-handed at times, but this forthright drama about our troubled times can’t fail to move.

To June 10

Originally published by Camden New Journal