LONDON — Soul-baring isn’t exactly a favorite pastime in England, which is still the proud land of the stiff upper lip. And 29-year-old Kinvara Balfour, playwright, actress, journalist and a granddaughter of the 17th Duke of Norfolk, is fed up with it.
“If you’re taking Prozac, it’s still a big secret — never mind that seven other girls at the dinner table are on it, too,” says Balfour, the author and star of “Dazed & Abused,” a play that chronicles the inner turmoil and social masks of a group of young posh types. A sellout at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, the play makes its U.S. debut at the Diane von Furstenberg Studio in New York tonight.
“People won’t ask for help, and there’s so much shame around therapy. And if you go into therapy, you just don’t talk about it. In England, you ‘don’t talk about the bad stuff, darling,’” explains the blonde and blue-eyed Balfour.
The play follows a character called Kinvara, a recovering alcoholic whose primary aspiration is to get married and have kids, on a disastrous date at a young playboy’s apartment. Kinvara obsesses over the thought of a line of coke, a drink, a chat with her therapist — anything to take the edge off the trying evening with lady-killer Joss, his Elvis-impersonating neighbor, his meddlesome psychiatrist uncle and a sad sack of a friend who’s just separated from her druggie husband.
The five cast members — Balfour, Joss Ings-Chambers, Bill Hurst, Julian Bird and Jagdeep Bhangoe — collaborated on the play while studying at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. Each character is loosely based on the actor’s personality. While Balfour insists the play is not autobiographical for any of the characters, she admits there are “elements of truth” to the dialogue.
“I’m surrounded by all of these things — drugs, alcohol, shopping and gambling addictions and workaholism,” she admits. “It’s my lifelong mission to provoke and to shock, and I’m prepared to expose what’s inside me, like any artist should.”
Balfour, who also works as a freelance writer and a model, is the first to admit “Dazed & Abused” isn’t exactly Shakespeare. “It’s throwaway theater. It’s hardly deep and profound. You watch, you’re engrossed by it, you leave and then you crave more,” she says. “It’s like reading Hello or Heat. It makes you feel sick and like crap about yourself, but you continue to buy it every week.”