The Breach has incredibly lofty ambitions, attempting to tackle many of the issues that keep us awake at night. Suicide, PTSD and the trauma of war, ideas about friendship in light of sexual assault and consent. It’s weighty stuff, but the individual parts just aren’t stitched together in a way that makes for engaging theatre.
It’s a shame, because the individual parts are promising. The young cast is terrific. Naomi Dawson’s bleak, minimalistic set, which doubles as a basement, slopes intimidatingly towards the audience, offering one big graphite-grey expanse against which the acting can shine.
It’s also a neat narrative set up. The play shunts between 1977 and 1991, with the same set of characters dealing with the loss of their friend to suicide. The pal appears in flashback scenes, showing how suicide can seem inconceivable one moment but horrifyingly real the next.
The problems begin shortly before the interval when conversations start to repeat themselves, and while the grief is palpable, the pace plateaus and the script gets weary.
There’s the insertion later of jeopardy by way of a consent storyline but it feels somewhat randomly inserted alongside the major theme of PTSD in the wake of the Vietnam War, which is hinted at as the main cause of the character’s decline in mental health. The assault is sort of interconnected in the sense that the latter wouldn’t have existed without the prior trauma, but still, it feels like the script never quite justifies the way it shifts between both ideas.
There are some lovely pieces of physical theatre performed by Morgan and Jasmine Blackborow and Shannon Tarbet as Jude in both time zones, handled delicately by director Sarah Frankcom, which experimentally stages the suicide in a way that really hits home. But The Breach lacks the coherence or momentum to do these themes justice.
The Breach plays at the Hampstead Theatre until 4 June