Gin for Breakfast at Tristan Bates Theatre
Mental Health Day aims to bring a string of taboo subject to the foreground and encourage people to share their experience in order to dispel myths and make support available for those who need it. Jess Moore’s Gin for Breakfast coincides with the 25th anniversary of the globally recognised awareness day, and the valuable message it implicitly sends out is that more attention needs to be paid to those around us, as any person one encounters could be more vulnerable than they appear.
The play follows the friendship of Jen and Robbie, two childhood friends who catch up yearly at Jen’s birthday party as they both enter their 30s. They are first shown celebrating in her home’s garden, where wooden frames and fairy lights all around create a dreamy atmosphere. The two consume copious amounts of alcohol, and their playfulness soon turns into gloom as they realise how unhappy they are with their lives. The piece then jumps to the next birthday, and the next, intending to show the progression of their psychological journeys, until a tragic event interrupts all celebrations.
From a social perspective, the production sends out a vitally important message: that speaking out is the way forward. The issues touched upon merit attention and ought to be voiced, and Gin for Breakfast does set up the foundation for tackling some important points. The narrative itself, however, is not gripping enough to hold attention and the dialogues are often too flat. In the first part it seems like eavesdropping on two drunken (and not particularly interesting) people engaging in endless banter, and the rest of the show consists of what appear to be overly dramatic rants shouted by the characters.
The issues highlighted would have come across more powerfully if subtleness had been employed. The debates sparked by the post-show Q&As are more likely to provide food for thought than the unmoving fictional account. Gin for Breakfast is held up by a great cause, and the talks after the show (presented by CALM, the suicide prevention organisation) will turn it into a worthwhile event. From a purely dramatic point of view, however, the piece remains superficial in its dialogues and inauthentic in its portrayal of frustration and emotional breakdowns. The play misses the opportunity to provide an insightful, realistic picture of a complex psychological experience and its dramatic highs are too shrill to make a real impact.
Gin for Breakfast is on at Tristan Bates Theatre from 26th September until 21st October 2017. For further information or to book visit the Tristan Bates Theatre website here.