A gripping narrative involving substance abuse and addiction doesn’t benefit a great deal from the presence of Marilyn Monroe symbolism, in King Brilliant Theatre’s Heroin(e) for Breakfast.
Don’t let King Brilliant Theatre’s poster image fool you; Heroin(e) for Breakfast is far more about the first six letters of its title’s operative word than one of the world’s most enduring iconic figures. I guess I arrived particularly interested in the way M. Monroe would be involved in the narrative, knowing her addiction was not to heroine but barbiturates. Unfortunately, Marilyn seemed to function as merely a symbolic representation of the allure of drug abuse – the mistress whose shoes no girlfriend can fill.
In the end though, this physical theatre offering’s story – of three young people who gave up their future for the deadly substance that makes life “more fun” – still drew me in. It was turned out to be in spite of, rather than as the consequence of, the Marilyn Monroe character.
For me, Amy-Lewise Spurgeon’s Monroe doesn’t demonstrate quite enough of a charismatic presence to hold the story together as the symbolic representation of heroin’s irresistibility. In many cases, you could put this down to rather sparse blocking – with Spurgeon just standing in a pose, perhaps without fully understanding, or at least effectively communicating to the audience, why that is so. Moreover, she just doesn’t seem to be enjoying it that much – and the audience misses the charming playfulness that the figure she’s portraying is so well-known for.
Regardless though, the rest of the story about the paths into addiction of 30-something Tommy (Lee Bainbridge), his barely-of-age girlfriend Edie (Kiera Parker) and his flatmate Chloe (Kirsty Anne Green) pulls the viewer in slowly. As irritating as Tommy is with his stories of sex and upcoming revolution, and, in all honestly, as pathetic as the story of falling-for-the-wrong-guy can be, there’s a disturbing sense of the characters and the plot being more realistic than we would like to believe. The three characters rather soon become all too human, and that is by far the show’s greatest strength.
Finally, it seems significant – and nicely so – that the piece sits in a morning slot at this year’s Fringe. The smart start time puts the topic of drug addiction right where it should be observed: under the broad daylight, and not something to be hidden in darkness in the hope it’ll resolve itself.