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Paper Creatures Theatre: Section 2 – an honest portrayal of mental health

A year after their successful debut production Flood,Paper Creatures Theatre are back at it again. This time they’re showcasing their play, Section 2, about mental health as part of the Breaking Out season at the Bunker Theatre.

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Section 2 | Paper Creatures Theatre

Jon Tozzi and Nathan Coenen, the founders of Paper Creatures look back at their first year: “We knew that it was a great show and that we had a great team behind us. Having a sellout run, with lovely reviews confirmed to us that we need to keep doing this and that it wasn’t just a one off for us. We were passionate about it. We met loads of new people and hopefully gained new audiences and now is our chance of spreading that net wider and reach new people”.

For their new show, the duo found playwright Peter Imms. Section 2 tells the story of Cam who is sectioned and how this affects him and the people around him.

 “When we read the script, both Jon and I were really blown away by how glaringly honest it was – a portrayal of what being in a mental health facility and being sectioned was.”

Coenen continues: “There’s a lot of mental health plays being done right now, but something about sectioning specifically and doing it in such a realistic way, really piqued our curiosity”.

Their goal for this new production is to demystify potential misconceptions about sectioning and the people that are sectioned. “People who’ve been sectioned have told us that they don’t really want to talk about it publicly because they’re afraid it might affect their careers or relationships. The desire to do this play has now spiraled into this passion to be able to hopefully create a piece of theatre that has a lasting effect on the audiences that come to see it, and hopefully create more of an awareness of this subject of sectioning”.

Jon: “We were very keen that it wasn’t just a production about what it’s like to be a patient. That’s something that Peter Imms wanted to address, that it should be a piece about the people around them as well and the importance of that and how it doesn’t affect just one person but it affects so many people.”

Paper Creatures got director Georgie Staight on board.

“They sent me the first draft and it was the writing that spoke first and even that first draft was completely beautiful which meant that I wanted to work with them.”

Jon: “I think it’s a very educational piece. The audience will come out of this knowing a lot more than they did before going in. The audience should feel like they’re a fly on the wall with this production. That they’re watching a real situation just pan out, because it’s coming from a place of such honesty”.

Director Georgie on working with the space in the Bunker Theatre:

“The story focuses around these people surrounding Cam. You see Cam in different kind of stages of distress and comfort. I’m interested in how we stage and play out Cam’s mental state. A lot of it can be portrayed physically and metaphorically and through sound and staging. The Bunker is an interesting space, you have to tailor it specifically”.

Another thing that was important to them was to raise awareness and start a conversation about mental health and being sectioned. “We know with the play there has to be an element of outreach to it. So from the get go we got in touch with the charity Mind and they’ve been so generous with their time. I’ve spoken to about eight individuals who’ve previously been sectioned. We have some short films for the public to see and open up the conversation. We’re also going to do post-show talks with the creative team, people who have been sectioned and charity representatives so we can contribute to this debate.”

Section 2 plays at the Bunker Theatre on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 June to 7 July. Tickets can be booked here.

Muted | Review

★★★★★ Interval Productions, The Bunker Theatre

Sarah Henley’s heartbreakingly beautiful story of loss and love enchants the audience with emotional songs and astonishing voices.

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Muted | Savannah Photographic

Michael is the frontman of a band called Lost Boy. He and his friends are an inch away from becoming a success. Then his mother suddenly dies from a hit and run accident and he never speaks a word again. His friends desert him and he lives with his uncle. Years later, his ex-girlfriend Lauren and his friend Jake who is now Lauren’s boyfriend, want to make things good again. When the band gets another shot at stardom, Jake tries to get Michael back in the band, because the label wants him to be the frontman once again. When Lauren tries to bring Michael back to normal, old feelings are re-emerging and a dark truth uncovered.

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Teenage Michael ( Ed Campbell Bird) | Savannah Photographic

Jamie Jackson’s direction of the musical is fresh, artistic and contemporary, which works well with the venue, the story and the songs.

The teenage version of Michael, played by Ed Campbell Bird, appears as the inner voice of him, while he stays muted the teenage Michael sings and expresses his inner feelings. During flashbacks with the mother that explains their relationship, which was sometimes difficult, due to his mothers drinking and disappointment of his father leaving them. His uncle Will had to deal with the loss of the sister but couldn’t mourn her loss having cared for his nephew at a young age. Now he is torn between living his own life and staying with his nephew.

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Lauren ( Tori Allen-Martin) and Micheal (David Leopold) | Savannah Photographic

Michael played by David Leopold has the ability to show Michael’s pain and sorrow of losing his mother. His life being turned upside down, the confusion of not knowing who the driver was and his friends suddenly abandoning him weighs on him heavily. His facial expressions and body language convey his feeling’s perfectly, making you instantly connect with Michael. He is a lost boy, which coincides with the name of his former band.

Tori Allen-Martin is not only an incredible musician and writer, she plays her part as the ex-girlfriend that was driven away by her guilt and, feeling helpless but unearths old feelings for Michael. Her voice also touches everyone in the audience. It is soft, yet strong, beautiful and emotional.

Muted runs at the Bunker Theatre until 7 January 2017.

 

Pride and Prejudice | Review

★★★★☆ Two Bit Classics, Jermyn Street Theatre

This play is an intelligent and heartfelt adaption of the Jane Austen classic. With witty and creative uses of narration, this story tells of one of the most romantic novels of all time.

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Photo is courtesy of Carrie Johnson

When Mr Bingley moves to Netherfield Estate, Mrs Bennet gets excited as she hopes one of her daughters is to marry him. Having five daughters, she’s constantly trying to marry them off. Mr Bennet is a relaxed man compared to that of his wife, who is not as eager as his wife. When Jane meets Mr Bingley, they seem to have a mutual interest in each other. However, his sister doesn’t agree with their possible relationship. Meanwhile, Mr Darcy, a handsome and proud aristocrat, doesn’t make a good first impression with Elizabeth.

Joannah Tincey adapted the play, creating a theatrical experience of the novel. Starring two actors playing 21 characters that are distinguished and clear, finding the line between narrator and character. Her genius of exploring the 200-year-old story and turning it into a play that only uses Austen’s own words, is well thought and works brilliantly in the small space of the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Nick Underwood’s portrayal of Jane Bennett is elegant and feminine and an audience favourite. His coughing as Kitty creates laughter from beginning to end.

Two Bit Classics Pride and Prejudice Photo by Carrie Johnson
Mrs Bennet (Joannah Tincey) and Mr Bennet (Nick Underwood) | Carrie Johnson

Director Abigail Anderson created an engaging romantic play, bringing famous personas from British Literature to the stage. She uses the third person narrative that introduces a dialogue between two characters, and by addressing the audience, they create a sense of relationship.

Whereas it is slow at points, once you pick up the story, it’s easy to get lost in it. It also seems slightly confusing, the actors are running around, changing characters and it takes a while until you catch on. After understanding which person possesses what characteristic, it’s easy to follow their journey.

 

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Jane Bennet (Nick Underwood) and Elizabeth Bennet (Joannah Tincey) | Carrie Johnson

The show uses a creative approach of narration in order to change characters. Underwood and Tincey narrate while acting and therefore explaining who is speaking. One element that makes this play so beautiful are the little differences between each character. A pipe for Mr Bennet, a handkerchief for Mrs Bennet. A change of tone, accent or body language. Those details accentuate the amazing character work by the two actors, showing that they know their characters very well.

Pride and Prejudice runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 21 December.

@TwoBitClassics @jstheatre #PrideAndPrejudice

Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves | Review

★★★★☆ The Sleeping Trees,  Theatre 503

Directed by Simon Evans, Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves is wonderfully creative and a hilarious spectacle that ignites the imagination.

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John Woodbury (Scrooge), James Dunnell-Smith (One of the Seven Dwarves), Joshua George Smith (Snow White) | David Monteith-Hodge

The Sleeping Trees trio, John Woodburn (Scrooge, Santa Claus),  James Dunnell-Smith (Mrs Claus, Wicked Witch) and Joshua George Smith (Bob Cratchit, Snow White) have created their third  wonderfully chaotic panto that keeps throwing Christmas at you until you can’t help but feeling festive.

Christmas is ruined, the Wicked Witch of the West has stolen all the Christmas spirit, so who else but grumpy, old Ebenezer Scrooge to the rescue. Mrs Clause sends him on a journey, where he encounters the seven Dwarves (played by two actors) and Snow White. A T-Rex and Mary Poppins also make an appearance throughout the show.

Meanwhile, the trio encounter their own problems. Forgetting to book the 30 actor strong cast, they, again, have to put on the whole show themselves. Will the talent agent watching the pantomime choose them to be the new Hollywood superstars?

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Ben Hales (Musician and Composer) on the far left | David Monteith-Hodge

The threesome are witty and have the ability to keep the entire audience intrigued. Playing several characters each, they’re showing versatility and the ability to create characters that stand out.

Ben Hales (Musician and Composer) perfectly plays the part of the puzzled audience member who gets dragged into the show. Chaotic at points but with a catchy and repetitive song, they bring the show home whilst you find yourself singing along and feeling excited for the holidays.

They throw Christmas at you with immense amount of insanity,  and a lot of ingenious stage charisma. All in all, this panto is the work of three incredibly talented comedian actors, making you laugh from start to finish.

 

Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves runs at Theatre 503 until Saturday 7 January 2017

Twitter: @wesleepingtrees @theatre503 #Scrooge503

Dead Funny | Review

★★★★☆ Vaudeville Theatre, Dead Funny

Terry Johnson wrote and directed an homage to comedians Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper and co. while reflecting their not so funny private lives in a laugh-out-loud spectacle.

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Official Poster (Vaudeville Theatre)

It’s 1992, everything’s a laugh. Richard is the President of the Dead Funny society and for him and his friends, Lisa (Emily Berrington), Nick (Ralf Little) and Brian (Steve Pemberton) nothing could be better than slipping famous routines of their favorite comedians into their lives and society meetings. All could be great if it wasn’t for Katherine Parkinson’s character, Eleanor (the star of the show) ruining their meeting with her cynical attitude and always infuriatingly funny, snappy and belittling comments towards her husband’s and friends’ obsessive love for dead comedians.

She’s unhappy and struggling with her own life, but she wants a baby. Desperately. All she can think about is getting pregnant and sleeping with her husband, who is pre-occupied with his own internal battles. It’s clear from the beginning that he feels rather uncomfortable in her presence and tries to avoid physical contact with her.

Their long-term friend Brian adds to the comedic value of the show. He seems to have the talent of always turning up at the wrong time or the perfect time, depending on who’s side your on. His somehow innocent characteristics makes him immediately likable.

It almost seems like you’re watching two plays at the same time. One about a struggling relationship and the other a satirical play on dead comedians, and their long-term admirers who have created the society.

Those collide when Benny Hill dies and the society holds a honorary meeting at Eleanor’s and Richard’s house.

However, if you’re unfamiliar with all these comedians, many jokes and anecdotes might easily be missed. What makes this play so funny is the mix of the cynical and admiration of old comedians and the clash of two different worlds.

The climax happens when secrets are uncovered and pies fly into faces. It’s a perfect way to celebrate iconic and traditional English comedy.

Dead Funny runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 4 February 2017. Get you tickets here.

1984 | Review

★★★★☆ Playhouse Theatre, 1984

An intense, powerful and somewhat traumatizing experience with fantastic performances that make this play a must see of the season.

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Winston Smith, a comrade of the outer party, opens a diary that will change his life forever. By doing so, he commits ‘thoughtcrime’ that is punished by death. He lives in a post-war world that is split into three countries, Oceania,  Eurasia and Eastasia.

The Government controls everything, what people eat, by rationing food, what they do, with constant surveillance through telescreens that can’t be turned off. Sex and love are forbidden. People are meant to dedicate their life to the party and therefore relationships are not allowed, and sex is only for the reproduction of party members. Even thinking is controlled by the government through newspeak, the language of Oceania, that decreases its vocabulary yearly and therefore ‘thoughtcrime’ will become impossible. People are brain washed and therefore don’t realise that they’re being told what to do and think.

Winston, who works in the Record Department has realised Big Brother’s control over everything and started to question his life. In the search for liberty, he meets Julia, a young comrade and falls in love. They join The Brotherhood, a secret organization by Emanuel Goldstein, an ex-Inner Party member who turned against Big Brother and is now the symbol of the rebellion. However, Big Brother is always watching.

The direction by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan is brilliant through and through. The timing reinforces intensity of certain scenes keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. However, if you’re not familiar with the story, it takes some time to understand the storyline and what is actually happening on stage, as there isn’t much background information that explains this distorted world.

Winston Smith is played by Andrew Gower, who delivers a magnificent performance that follows his journey as a frail man, who has trouble differentiating reality from false memories to opposing a suppressive government. Catrin Stewart, who portrays Julia is an excellent addition to Winston, as a young and energetic woman who knows how to lie properly in order to survive in Oceania. The staging is not only clever and efficient but also so versatile. It makes you hold your breath. One minute, we’re in Winston Smith’s home, the next in the canteen and then at the train station.

This spine-tingling play leaves a bitter sweet aftertaste. Resonating with a world that had Snowden revealing that the USA secretly used the internet for mass surveillance to spy on people and governments.

So did George Orwell predict the future? Are we all being brainwashed without realising it? These questions stay in mind, even hours after leaving the theatre.

1984 is currently running at the Playhouse Theatre until 29 October 2016

Theatre etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

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You’re sitting in a red velvet seat in a beautiful old theatre, awaiting a wonderfully touching play and ready to be immersed into a different world. You’ve turned your phone off and have had a glance through the £4 programme. All you need now is for the show to start, and you can enjoy an unforgettable evening. Unfortunately, others around you have a different idea of a great evening. Talking, eating and rustling with plastic bags is part of their theatre routine. Most of the time “those” people are clueless as to why you’ve rolled your eyes at them for the third time. Just in case, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to get you started.

Don’t talk throughout the show. Yes, this should be common sense. Yet, some people still don’t grasp the concept of theatre. So, let me quickly explain this to you. A play or musical is live, there are actual human beings on stage, pouring their soul into this performance. It doesn’t only disturb other theatre goers when you suddenly have to talk to your friend about that amazing thing you did last week, just because one scene in the show reminded you of that. It might also not be a great idea if you need to explain to them what is happening on stage or translating it into a different language. That’s what a post-show drink at the pub is for.

Don’t eat your way through a bag of M&M’s or any other bag of sweets for that matter. You’re not on your couch in sweats and watching a film on a Saturday evening. I never understood the need to eat during a two-hour show, especially if there’s an interval where you have 20 minutes to stuff your face. However, if you’re absolutely starving then check out TodayTix the theatre app. They have just launched Silent Snacks, these are currently only available at In the Heights and American Idiot for a short time only. This might be a great innovation for all the snackers in the theatre.

Do get up and dance if they tell you to. A lot of shows, well musicals, have a big finale at the end of their performances. Many times, the actors encourage you to get up and dance or even just clap along. It’s a fun way to end an evening full of energetic songs and head bopping hits. So don’t be shy, nobody cares what you look like when you rock along to Lola at the end of Sunny Afternoon. It just shows the cast that you actually had a great time and weren’t dragged to the show by someone who’s a theatre enthusiast.

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Do tweet after the show. Many plays and musicals, particularly the small productions would love and need your support. Become part of a greater discussion, rather than just telling your friends about your thoughts on the show. Feel free to tweet the show and tell them how much you loved it and why, or if you enjoyed a performance by a particular actor, tweet them. In most cases, they’re happy to hear your thoughts and sometimes even reply. This is a great way to connect with the actors without waiting at stage door, as well as help promoting a good production.

Going to the theatre isn’t rocket science. People should be able to figure out that using your phone throughout a performance is not only distracting to other audience members and the actors, but also incredibly rude. The same counts for making any unnecessary noise. You want to be captivated by the performance and emerged into the world that the show takes you, without getting disturbed every few minutes.