The set design (Scott Maxim) comprises a simple writing-desk set-up, some slick floorboards and a set of familiar wooden cut-out trees as the backdrop – I remember them from Blue Flicker Productions’ 2021 show Big Foot, which I also reviewed and which Maxim also led the design on. The way fantasy and fairytale leach into the domestic in this design is beautifully symbolic and lends itself to the show, though I do find myself questioning the purpose of a second door throughout the show; it’s never used, and I’m not sure if it even functions or if it’s just for ‘decoration’.
The lighting design (Josh Hopton-Stewart) is kept fairly simple, with different colour washes to indicate the shifts in and out of time and reality, which start to blend nearer the end of the performance. I do struggle with the decision to use blackouts between each scene (a personal and ongoing gripe of mine) as it repeatedly undoes the great work that Julia Harris (Alida) and Rosie Barnard (Beth) do to hold tension and build rapport with the audience, forcing them to start over again in each new scene. I don’t know if this is a design decision or a directing one, but I’m an advocate for transitions that keep the pace up.
Even with the lag from the blackouts, the drama stays high, and it’s all in the impeccable casting of Harris and Barnard. These two brim with energy and feeling, and they have a level of chemistry as scene partners that I haven’t seen for some time. Barnard’s depictions of Beth and Alida’s mother are so startling in their symmetry that I find myself sharing in Alida’s confusion, and Harris’s depth of character work forces us to see Alida long before we see her Alzheimer’s. Plenty of this exists in the script to start, but I want to applaud the level of care that the cast and crew have taken in learning the reality of Alzheimer’s and bringing it to stage with honesty and nuance. The work is apparent.
It is a strange thing to be reviewing a show in the midst of a cyclone that has affected some of my nearest and dearest up the east coast; it is stranger still to have said show interrupted by a 6.3-magnitude quake. Eight minutes in we have to stop the show to drop, cover and hold, and Harris (who is alone on stage at the time, taking cover under Alida’s writing desk) does a magnificent job of stepping right back into character after the shaking stops. If this is anything to go by, they should breeze through the rest of the season.
Breadcrumbs is showing for a split season at the Gryphon Theatre until Saturday 25 February, with a matinee on Sunday 19 February. Book your tickets now through iTicket.
Author’s note: I know the director of this show, Emily K Brown, personally. I have endeavoured to provide honest critique, but if you have any feedback or find bias in this review, please don’t hesitate to comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.