Shedding their teenage fears

Andrew Reed (Ben), Faye Christall (Megan) and Grace Hogg-Robinson (Holly) in Broken Biscuits
Andrew Reed (Ben), Faye Christall (Megan) and Grace Hogg-Robinson (Holly) in Broken Biscuits

Broken Biscuits, a coming-of-age story set in a garden shed, is brought to the Crucible Studio Theatre next week by innovative touring company Paines Plough.

Directing the new play by Tom Wells is Sheffield University alumni and co-artistic director of Paines Plough,  James Grieve.

It’s exciting to work with actors with such raw talent

“It’s about three teenagers in Hull who have just finished their GCSEs and at the start of the summer holiday Megan calls them all to her shed to discuss how they can become cool,” he explains. “And they decide to form a band even though none of them can play an instrument.”

“Tom is from Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, near Hull, and I think he has mined his own experience,” says the director.

Paines Plough gave Wells his professional debut with a play called Me, A Penguin in 2008-9 and the company co-directed his best known play, Jumpers for Goalposts, which Grieve directed.

“I think he is the new Alan Bennett,” he declares. “He’s got this ability to capture and bring to life ordinary lives and ordinary people in contemporary Britain. Broken Biscuits is very funny, positive and heartening and loving.”

The three actors - Faye Christall, Grace Hogg-Robinson and Andrew Reed – are older than the teenaged characters, but still young.

“Two of them are just 20 and one is making her stage debut. It’s been exciting to work with actors with that youthfulness and raw talent and they really manage to capture the sense of being a teenager.”

Hull, of course, is the UK City of Culture next year. “Tom started thinking about Broken Biscuits before that happened but there’s a nice symmetry of three young people setting up a band in the city of culture,” observes Grieve. Tom Wells has written a play especially for it called Folk, again with a musical theme.

Meanwhile Grieve says he is excited to be back at the place where he got his first break. Having directed a short play called Kitchen by Van Badham in a late night bar at Sheffield University, he wrote to Sheffield Theatres to suggest they should put it on. To his amazement they gave him two nights in the Crucible Studio which he counts as his professional debut.

Grieve returned to Sheffield to direct Translations in the Crucible Main House during the Brian Friel season in 2014. Last year he went to Sweden to direct a production of Les Miserables for Wermland Opera at Karlsdat. It was Grieve’s debut in musical theatre and to add to the challenge it was in Swedish language.

“I love variety. New plays have 100% of my heart but it’s great occasionally to explore other things.”

○Broken Biscuits, Studio Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday.