There’s a truism in life that there are two possible directions that pivotal moments can take us: up and down. Just before you go in either of these directions, there is a moment of indecision, of choice, of ‘brinking’. This point, or fork in the road, is the brink, the edge, and your next decision determines whether you move towards success or catastrophe.
In a theatrical attempt to give a palpable insight into the world of brinking, renowned writer Jackie Kay MBE and Associate Director Matthew Xia collaborated with The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company at The Studio for a two-date show. Naturally, TNT took the front row of the intimate 90-seat space – the edge of the stage – for the world premiere of BRINK.
Fusing varying issues including the pressure to succeed, loss and mental health, Kay organically creates a poetic series of fractured yet woven-together monologues that show what brinking truly feels like. The simple yet inspired set – a cafe with a door that dinged upon the introduction of each new character – harmonised both the emotional and physical representation of the various forms of brinking. Artistically, the cafe represented brinking; a place anyone can enter.
“Being sat in the front row, I could literally reach out and touch the actress in front of me; perhaps this close physical proximity stood as a metaphor for how close mental illness is to us all.”, novel editor Sophie Weiner told TNT Entertainment.
The intermittent monologues are poetic; credit to Kay’s ingenuity and personal experiences, as BRINK not only draws from the Young Company’s cast members’ stories but from her “many brinking experiences” she said; which subsequently transmuted her from a runner into a writer.
With shifting cubes and, at one point, a swing descending from the ceiling for a character to sit on, Xia manages to create some stunning choreography which contributes to the physical facet of brinking. However, some characters were hit-and-miss when choreographically conveying mental health; some too exaggerated (Hollywood-ised), others inaccurate. It’s important to point out however that the performance comprises of young new talent.
BRINK succeeds in presenting the psychological trajectory onto the physical, thus making mental health relatable; visible and understandable. The play’s disjointed monologues audibly lack cohesion yet holistically mirror the characters’ mental states.
The music, intense and haunting, is atmospheric and facilitates the dance sequences. The final song, however, abruptly introduces an upbeat vibe and the lyrics are hopeful for the future, but just not plausible given the darkness of the rest of the play.
There are several reasons to see the play – its scope and originality for example – but largely for the fact that brinking’s threaded in life’s DNA. Being aware of this equips you with the essential tools that send you up rather than down. “If brinking times don’t break you, they’ll make you”, Kay said.
BRINK ends on 29 March at The Studio.
TNT Entertainment Yasin Chinembiri