The Break of Day was one of two third-year drama productions as part of the Wertenbaker season. The play surrounded three women at different points in their careers grappling with the implications of their choices on their personal lives, careers and ideologies.
The play was held together by the acting forces of Verity Hodgson-Bajoria as Nina, Alexandra Hayes as Tess and Isabel Morgan as April. Each of the three settled into their roles effortlessly, their performances finding particular strength in their interactions with one another. The relationships set up in the first act made the parallel staging of both Nina and Tess’ storylines in the second act heart-breaking to watch, and their coalescing in the third to the personal pain of Tess highlighted Hayes at her best.
Supporting them as the women’s male counterparts were Thomas Gutteridge as Hugh, Ben Prudence as Robert and Alexander Wiseman as Jamie. Each presented an interesting insight into masculinity amongst the backdrop of political unrest, Wiseman’s presentation of a man’s uncertainty in work infecting his personal relationships is one of the most interesting parts of the play for me.
With a large cast of side characters, standouts included Hattie Manton as the outspoken Marissa, who managed to command a strong presence of the younger female generation amongst the older women in the play, and Sebastian Garbacz as the bumbling Mihail, skilfully balancing a loveable yet frustrating character into one.
Set against changing sets by Paul Stimpson, the play was grounded in the political unrest of both England and Eastern Europe, deftly reflecting back the uncertainty of all the characters’ lives.
The cast of The Break of Day had a difficult challenge on their hands, as the play dealt with difficult, emotional content and moments of real philosophical discussion, but I found this depth to be the strength of the play. The ensemble in the first and last act played off of one another incredibly well to create a believable sense of long relationships between characters uncertain in themselves and the world. Hodgson-Bajoria’s guttural cries into the steady arms of Gutteridge in the second act after they have to leave their baby behind is one of the moments that has stayed permanently with me – an empathetic and crushing performance from both actors.
The play only faltered in those transitionary moments into the heavier discussions. From a small kiss on the forehead, suddenly Nina and Tess had fallen out. I think the play could have benefitted from a more natural progression into high tension moments, as sometimes it felt as though the actors went from zero to a hundred in the space of a few lines.
However, when in its moments of strength, this play was incredibly strong – touching, thought-provoking and profound. I left the production thinking over many of the questions the play raised – and examining my own motivations and choices more.