When Break Bread was first announced as a commission by Silo Theatre near the end of 2019, Covid-19 was yet to emerge. The show was meant to be a communal experience, gathering audiences together to share a meal as part of the production, which would tell the story of human history with bread as the linking feature.
Fast-forward two years, and Break Bread has finally been unleashed on the world – only it is now a digitally streamed production, filmed across Auckland in the cast's homes, a show completely reshaped by the past two years since it was first conceived.
It may not be what was originally intended, but the final result stunning production, truly a product of the times and that has so perfectly blended the original pitch with a snapshot of life under Auckland's long lockdown that it's impossible to imagine it being any other way.
Written by Alice Canton, Freya Finch, Leon Wadham and Jarod Rawiri, Break Bread on the surface is about overcoming adversity and finding community – through the baking of bread. In four separate scenes, the cast – Tom Clarke and Scotty Cotter alongside Canton and Finch – explore the Exodus of Egypt, the eruption of Pompeii, the Great Fire of London and the sinking of the Titanic and how bread joins these disparate events together.
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The high standards we've come to expect from Silo remain despite the geographical complexities of lockdown. In the standout sketch, Canton, Cotter and Finch put a suburban Kiwi housewife spin on the Plague of the Firstborn ("I'm gutted actually") that has been crafted and edited so seamlessly you slip into the facade of the production.
In other moments, Finch gushes over James Cameron's Titanic, complete with homemade replicas of the props, while a quartet of filthy, heavily accented monologues see some Pompeii residents explain why they were frozen in acts of self-pleasure. These are largely joined together by Clarke as a camp, over-the-top MC, introducing each sketch from a lavishly decorated room that looks like the real deal.
That's until a delivery man interrupts one take, exposing Clarke's state of undress and bringing the play back to reality. For although Covid is never mentioned by name, the pandemic permeates each scene, adding a mix of comedy and melancholy to the proceedings – phone calls interrupt scenes, flatmates lash out over the props, anxieties boil over in calming moments.
A lot of creatives have pivoted to capture the times we live in. New Zealand has seen a few examples so far, but this is the best post-Covid work I've across so far. It makes the medium work while still capturing a theatrical element, and lets the original concept of communal bonding merge with this moment in history to create something fresh that will speak to every person watching.
Streaming from home will never be a proper substitute for the theatrical experience, but through Break Bread, Silo have found a way to make it work for them in a way that captures as much of the joy of theatrical experience as possible. And while this unfolding pandemic may not have been planned, the way bread has fitted into our lives this past year makes this production a perfect fit for the national mood.
It is a thrill that the show was able to reach audiences, unleashing the joy the talented cast and creatives have produced while capturing a much-needed point of view from the past four months.
What: Break Bread
Where: SiloTheatre.co.nz, streaming until December 19.