When first hearing of a show highlighting the rise in student anxiety and depression, I thought Breathe had the potential to be incredibly moving and eye opening on the subject. Shows before it have succeeded in educating while entertaining their audience,s but I have yet to see a piece tackle the issue from the graduate perspective. Sadly, what Breathe presents is what I would describe as a generic and almost stereotypical interpretation of anxiety and depression wrapped up in too many transitions and poorly employed projection.
We are first introduced to characters Eddie (Peter Silva), Rachel (Olivia Waller-Feltham), and Maria (Zoe Templemen-Young), three mid-twenty year olds living together trying to navigate the adult world of jobs and responsibilities. Throughout the story the audience see Eddie and Rachel attempt to help Maria overcome her demons and recover her determination and tenacity to become a writer. While slightly over-acting at times, these actors must be commended for achieving what they have with disappointing writing and technical difficulties. Templemen-Young gives a relatively good performance as the central character, but the script and direction tends to alienate any of our sympathies for the people portrayed onstage.
On the other hand, and to pull a positive, the tiger motif surrounding the play was a lovely touch. With Maria dressed in a tiger onesie, she sheds her costume and metaphorically her attitude towards herself, overcoming her dangerous coping method of recreational drug-use turned addiction. However, this was unfortunately overshadowed by clumsily implemented projection which didn’t quite fit with the staging or the actual piece itself.
This piece has a lot of potential and with redrafting and tweaks to the technology and acting Breathe could be incredibly powerful. Obviously mental illness is an incredibly important issue with one-in-four adults possessing some form – however, I do not however believe that employing the use of a soundscape similar to an ASMR video coupled with a story where the character’s friends shout at her repeatedly until she’s semi-cured will help the cause.