The Breach: Charlie Beck, Alfie Jones and Stanley Morgan. Photo: Johan Persson
It’s a scenario not dissimilar to that which made the likes of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings utterly compelling literary successes. Yet, the foundations of The Breach are neither strong nor detailed enough to make us believe its grisly premise, and neither does Sarah Frankcom’s minimalist design do anything to lift Wallace’s patchy plot from the page.
Set in Kentucky, with scenes alternating between 1977 and 1991, we meet the group as teens. Acton is a wet-behind-the-ears, straight-A student, dependent on the friendship of the confident Hoke and sidekick Frayne to protect him from the school bullies. Acton’s greatest strengths, in the eyes of Hoke and Frayne, are his basement – which becomes the group’s headquarters – and his beautiful but fierce 17-year-old sister Jude, who has been left to provide for her impoverished family following the death of their father on a building site. Jude mucks in with the group, to some extent, and will do anything to protect her younger brother.
Shannon Tarbet and Jasmine Blackborow in The Breach. Photo: Johan Persson
Sarah Frankcom’s dark, bare, Brechtian staging seems odd, even lazy, for a play based so much on reminiscing about the past. Its blank nothingness places too much pressure on the cast to do the heavy lifting. While all seven are strong performers, engrossed in their characters, they’re also not helped by Wallace’s script, which jumps too quickly to the story’s crux – a distasteful rape scene that reads like a perverted male fantasy. A more gradual build-up of the dare game in particular would be needed to make this sickening twist believable. Sadly, when all is revealed, a scene confronting the past leads to no real comeuppance for the perpetrators, but nor is one fought for by the victim. Instead, things fizzle into a bizarre and unsatisfying conclusion.
With date-rape drugging on the rise in pubs, bars and clubs across the UK, a play with themes relating to this, along with peer pressure and consent, has the potential to feel timely and make a real impact.
Alas, The Breach is not that play.
|What||The Breach, Hampstead Theatre review|
|Where||Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 3EU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Swiss Cottage (underground)|
06 May 22 – 04 Jun 22, 7:30 PM – 9:45 PM
|Price||£10 - £30|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|