‘The Breaks In You And I’ written by contemporary writer and comedian Lizzie Milton, is a hilarious, heartfelt, and passionate account of a mutually corrosive relationship between characters Joanna and Chloe.
The intense hour long performance, with a cast of two, intricately details all of the ups and downs, the utter turmoil humans put each other through, from both perspectives. Breaking the fourth wall entirely, the audience (and even the sound/lighting technician) become something of a therapist, listening to the two opposites squabble and moan, expressing some home truths – like how they have been wearing the same underwear for ten straight days (turning them inside out, of course) – and ultimately concluding that they simply cannot be without each other.
Walking into the small black box space with not much character, we are greeted by Lily Allen’s ‘Fuck You’ playing as a soundscape. With little to no lighting, we are immediately aware we are in the heart of the performance with little touches of set to help map out the stage space: a welcome mat, suitcases, bubble wrapped vases, and an array of white photograph frames with the couple’s pictures inside (a nice, personal touch by designer Fie Neo). This is quickly sabotaged, destroyed by the littering waste of earthy ‘Joanna’, played as brash and tough skinned by Nina Shenkman. As the two characters are direct opposites of each other in appearance, language, hair colour, physicality and mood, Chloe appears as icy, prim and proper throughout, played as serine and psychotic by Charlotte Merriam.
The play opens with the characters laying down some ground rules and restraints they want to place on each other before telling their story, and once they agree to leave out the x and y and not to mention z, they dive in.
Having no more than a couple of meters playing space between them, they are quite literally on top of each other and give an excitable and exemplary demonstration of an onstage actors’ relationship. Already performing as a comedy duo act ‘Merry and Shenk’ their connection and trust on stage is like ‘fire to gasoline’ and allow each other to throw different objectives and curveballs throughout. An attribute which is utterly captivating, undeniable to the audience, and must have been a dream to direct and work with.
We go between the two and their undeniable need for each other, in what is the most accurately written and relatable account I have come across of how one human being can be utterly addicted to another. Surround that with the beautiful, charming, downright crude text of Milton, and you’ll see yourself in these characters and situations as much as any Jenifer Aniston rom-com.
Dogfaced Boy are a London based emerging theatre company that pride themselves on new writing. Particularly excited by texts that have women as the forefront, their female fronted creative team explore the work in a bespoke and picturesque way that allows the audience to focus solely on the actors, and the text. Milton’s writing – which compares sex scratches to angel wings – must have been a dream to play with, and director Holly Robinson’s touch wholeheartedly brought it to life. Merge that with the skill and comedic timing of Shenkman and Merriam, and you’ve got the heartrending, fast paced ‘The Breaks In You And I’.
The Breaks In You And I is playing The Hope Theatre September 19.