Review: Have a Break, Have a KitKat at 53two is “ridiculously funny”

Have a break from the Tory Party meltdown, have a KitKat at 53two...

Switch_MCR stage new plays at 53two and they have garnered a loyal following. And you can see why as they make pieces which speak to audiences and tap into things that affect them and make them feel something. And 53two do exactly the same and they have the intimate space in which to bring out your emotions close up, so this has been a great meeting of minds for these two local arts organisations, who both rely on local people to donate, crowdfund and buy tickets.

Have a Break, Have a KitKat is a two hander and essentially it is an exploration of grief and identity. Where the play excels is that it captures the unpredictability of grief; the days when you feel good, but you are wracked with guilt because you think you should feel bad. And those times when you are hit with a tsunami of different emotions, including anger, sadness, pain and unexpected laughter, often dark humour kicks in as a defence mechanism.

Laura (Bronte Appleby who also wrote the play) and Nick (Isah Levi-Roach) are cousins, and they look out for each other, sharing those intimate family moments during events that bring them together, and feeling that same sense of duty but unafraid to speak out when things don’t sit well.

Nick has lost his dad, and this is all encompassing, so much so that his cousin becomes a conduit for his pain. Laura obliges and goes out of her way to help him heal, listening, advising, and nurturing. If you have ever been in this position, you realise there are times when you get nothing back and you start neglecting yourself and your needs. But you say nothing, as you worry it may come across as selfish.

As the play progresses, it is clear that Bronte Appleby’s writing is not offering the audience some kind of patronising self-help guide to cope with bereavement. We are simply looking through the window, eavesdropping at the bar, as these two young characters navigate not only grief but their own identity and where they fit into this world.

We hear the news in the background and Liz Truss is on the way out, having only just walked in, the War in Ukraine is raging, and the Queen has died. This gives other family members a part to play within the narrative through the addition of voice overs, phone calls and voice messages. The theme of duty comes in relation to the Queen as other family members mourn someone they have not met, and for the young protagonists – this is the height of privilege. And they are mourning people that have shaped them close by, as opposed to a face on a stamp and a waving figure in an expensive car.

Kitty Ball directs with an eye on pace, and this means you do get into the heads of these characters and see what makes them tick. To increase this impact, it would benefit from silence and allowing the characters to breathe without dialogue.

Isah Levi-Roach is broken in the first half of the play and his character Nick is seeking answers. This gives Bronte Appleby the chance to shine, as Laura is trying to fix and repair and she gives off Anna Kendrick vibes, as she is a very assured performer. Uber confident and in control, she knows how to involve and engage the audience, giving them rhetorical questions and looking right into the eyes. 53two is an unforgiving space, if you don’t do ‘the work’ and thankfully Appleby is unafraid to be vulnerable and this means you engage with her character’s plight and see through the mask she often wears.

Isah Levi-Roach gains strength as Nick begins to come out of the other side and by act two, he conveys the stage of grief when it becomes easier to manage, as opposed to simply done with. The complexities of bereavement are so well written, that if you have been unfortunate enough to experience the loss of a loved one who has taken their own life, you will feel seen here, as Laura’s mind becomes like a global weather forecast, sunny and warm one minute and stormy and cold the next.

The need to inject drama through an argument does feel a bit rushed, and it does not have to come from a dramatic event. Grief is so unpredictable, that it could come from that alone. There is genuine chemistry between these two and they do feel like old friends, and I had this nagging feeling the play would work better if they were long time pals, as opposed to cousins. And Nick’s job only seems to exist as a way of mining some drama and conflict, as he is a journalist. And as this play is about seeking the truth when things are murky and muddled, you can probably guess where it leads.

But Appleby’s real strength is that she seeks out comedy from the saddest of situations. And that keeps the audience interested because the play is never maudlin or self indulgent. There are glimmers of hope that come from the characters’ ability to keep hold of those small moments that get them through. That includes a KitKat battle, with the bars becoming tiny lightsabers and it is as ridiculously funny as it sounds.

Have a Break from the Tory Party meltdown, have a KitKat at 53two.

Tickets for Have a Break, Have a KitKat at 53two

Have a Break, Have a KitKat is at 53two until 24th June and tickets can be booked here.

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