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Jess Moore Gin for Breakfast Marple Marple Bridge Royal Exchange Stephen Fry

Local playwright Jess Moore with Stephen Fry

Seeing their work on the London stage is the desired denouement in many a playwright’s career, but for Jess Moore it was just act one, scene one. Her debut play, Gin For Breakfast, was performed at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre last autumn, to encouraging reviews and such interest in her themes of mental health that a number of high-profile personalities - Oliver Kamm, Hugo Rifkind, Stephen Fry, Mathew Horne and Frank Turner - came to speak about their own experiences at the post-show talks.      

Although she now lives and works in London, Jess grew up in Marple Bridge - her parents still live here - and she has special memories of visits to the Davenport theatre, pantomimes at the Palace and being “enthralled by the Royal Exchange. “Staging a play there one day remains my dream,” she says.

Jess Moore

“I was very shy when I was little and Mum and Dad, rightly, thought drama classes would help my confidence.  The summer school at Braeside in Strines did a production at the Garrick in Stockport, and I loved every moment. We wore t-shirts and had a simple wooden set and, from my nine-year-old’s perspective, it was perfect. My preference for black box theatre with minimal settings and costumes probably stems from that production. 

I had far more enthusiasm than talent for acting, it was much later that I realised I was a better writer than I was an actor. I love writing dialogue, telling stories through scripts.” 

In Gin For Breakfast she speaks through just two characters. Jen and Robbie are childhood friends who remain close and meet occasionally, in spite of the very different directions their grown-up lives have taken.  Jen is a lawyer who worries too much, Robbie a musician who drinks too much.  Both are struggling with the gulf between their expectations and the reality of life, and - most pertinently - with admitting it. Even the strongest crumble, the successful feel failure and the best of friends collide when depression descends.

“I wrote the play to tell the story I wanted to tell about mental health and how difficult it is to talk about openly. It’s a subject that I and many of my peers have experienced, and each of the team involved in this play has their own deeply personal connection to it, so bringing it to life was painful at times.”

“It takes a lot of work to get a play on stage, especially for a first production, and we are indebted to our supporters. It's exhausting and emotionally challenging, but all worthwhile when you hear the audience laugh and cry and connect with moments that mean something to them.”

How do you follow a London debut?  Jess has been commissioned to write a play for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  “I am thrilled to have a production at Edinburgh, and to say something about the particular issue I’m writing about this time,” she says, “but it’s too soon to share details.”