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.

Flood | Review

★★★★★ Paper Creatures Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre

Flood is a flawless debut production for Paper Creature Theatre and another hit for Tom Hartwell.

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Emily Céline Thomson (Jess), Nathan Coenen (Michael), Jon Tozzi (Adam) and Tom Hartwell (Ben) | @HeadshotToby

While his village is flooding, Adam feels like he’s drowning with it. His mother has just died and all his friends have moved away, closer to the capitol. Everyone is moving on with their new lives, millennials leaving the village in search for a better future. Adam  feels abandoned by his friends and sister. When his friends return to the village for the funeral, secrets are uncovered.

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Jon Tozzi (Adam) | @HeadshotToby

Playwright Tom Hartwell creates a wonderfully slick and heartfelt play that flows from scene to scene with characters that feel natural. The comedy drama deals with millennial themes such as how our culture is dominated by viral videos, occupied by the constant use of social media and how it’s made us lazy when it comes to social interactions. As well as all this, the play also touches on how millennials deal with loss and bereavement.

We find ourselves sending condolence messages and birthday wishes over social media which have just as much meaning as poking someone on Facebook. Hartwell seems to be able to tell relatable stories about different aspects and hurdles of millennials’ lives and finds the right tempo and tone with ease, by creating characters that are relatable and real.

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Tom Hartwell (Ben) and Molly McGeachin (Laura) |@HeadshotToby

Adam (Jon Tozzi) and Michael (Nathan Coenen) compliment each other well and have a fun character dynamic. Jess (Emily Céline Thomson) brings a slightly more mature note to the play with her  relationship with Michael that is moving forward and developing through the play. Overall, the chemistry between the actors aids the brilliant direction by Georgie Straight.

From the set that looks like floating furniture in a flooded basement, to the swift and creative scene changes, everything in this play works together perfectly and turns this debut production into a must-see for Paper Creatures Theatre.

Flood runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe until 5 August.

Paper Creatures Theatre Company: Exploring simple, compelling and bold stories.

It seems fitting that I meet the founders of the new theatre company Paper Creatures at the National Theatre.

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Flood is the debut play by Paper Creatures | Paper Creatures
It’s only morning but the National Theatre is already buzzing with people, guided tours, tourists and people who are desperately trying to get tickets to Angels in America. We find a quiet and cool space on a warm, sunny day and start talking about Flood, the debut production by Paper Creatures.

The themes were important, we wanted to look at grief within the millennial generation, humour and heart.

Flood is a new comedy drama by playwright Tom Hartwell, about Adam who is “forced to confront his future when those closest to him return after the death of his Mum. Upon their arrival, repressed truths and unsettling secrets are revealed. Flood is a complex and humane portrayal of a group of friends struggling to define themselves beyond the confines of their small town.”

Starting rehearsal on 17 July, the two talk about the first read through of the script.

The first read through was really special. It was so relatble, he [Tom Hartwell] managed to take an ancient idea of a village flooding and put it in such a modern light of 20 year olds, dealing with home and identity.  We were fascinated with the idea, why is it that people want to leave their homes.

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Founders Jon and Nathan | Paper Creatures
Jon and Nathan met when they were both working in an all-male Shakespeare troupe and travelled around the UK and Europe doing open air Shakespeare. “We became quite close on tour, got chatting and when we finished the tour we wanted to do something different after spending five months doing Shakespeare. We thought why don’t we put on a play?”

After seeing a lot of theatre once returned from their tour, they noticed that millennials need a “realistic and honest voice for our generation, the millennial generation, we sometimes felt we were painted a bit one dimensional.”

Also passionate about new plays, they decided to set up a theatre company.

The name paper creatures came from the paper representing the script, where it starts, the blank piece of paper. And then the creatures being the characters that come from that. We are the creatures that make the story and the theatre is the place where we perform, it’s the place where we can tell those stories.

Wanting to create a voice for not only this generation, Jon and Nathan also hope that in the future people will look back on these plays that are new writing now, but could be a potential classic in the future.

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Poster for Flood|Paper Creatures
Talking about the importance of new writing, Paper Creatures explains why they’re happy to be part of London’s theatre community. “There is so much opportunity for fringe theatre, there are so many lovely pub theatres in London and around the UK. It’s thriving at the moment. It’s almost like a revolution, all these new playwrights emerging, coming out of every place you can imagine and then they get transferred to the West End.”

There is such a dynamic community of new writing on the fringe circuit in London that is dominated by the millennial generation in a very positive way and it’s so vibrant, so helpful and so supportive. It’s a really great community to be part of.

By setting up Paper Creatures, the actors want to create a “platform for young new writers, young creators from all different fields, lighting designers, sound designers, to come together and create stories which are simple, bold and compelling.”

Our long term goal is to create a really creative environment to tell these stories with our generation contributing to them, for our generation.

Flood runs as part of the Camden Fringe 2017 at the Tristan Bate Theatre from 31 July until 5 August. You can get tickets here.

@paper_creatures, @jon_tozzi, @NathanJCoenen

Pluto | Review

★★★★☆ Moonchild Theatre Company| Baron’s Court Theatre

Moonchild Theatre Company stages an impressive first production of a new play that captures many important issues in today’s world, by personifying likeable planets, comets and moons.

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Liam Joseph (Pluto) and Charlotte Price ( Professor Furtham/ Charon) |Moonchild Theatre Company

The New Horizons probe lands on Pluto in 2006 and brings bad news for the planet, who is currently having a party which no one has turned up to, except for his best friend Charon. The probe that arrives bears news from NASA telling PLUTO that he’s no longer a planet. He’s now labelled a ‘Dwarf Planet’ which throws Pluto into total chaos, “I’ve been conned into hosting my own funeral”. He’s confused about his identity and has only Charon (and a stripper she hired), to cheer him up and help him to understand.

“Pluto: The subject of much confusion,” as his friend Charon puts it, is mirroring people in our society who have things decided for them, often by men in power who cannot even begin to understand their situation.

The production touches on a fair amount of social and political issues, maybe too many to completely be sure of its message. The staging is sparse but it works, due to the dark walls of the tiny Baron’s Court Theatre, giving you a feeling of deep space.

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Liam Joseph (Pluto) | Moonchild Theatre Company

Callum O’Brien takes Pluto and turns his story into a perfect metaphor for issues such as labelling others, accepting people for who they are and feeling lonely. His direction is clear, fresh and ideal for millennials who would love to see their first play but are daunted by big Shakespearian productions.

The stripper scene is hilariously awkward. The overall humour of the play manages to cover up many of the issues and problems in today’s society.  Liam Joseph’s Saturn impression is brilliant and draws the audience on his side. He brings Pluto to life and turns him into a character that you like instantly. He’s not just a planet but a man with a heart and soul.

Charon, played by Charlotte Price is extremely gripping and intriguing. You find yourself hanging to every word during her monologue about her friendship to Pluto. She simply leaves you wanting more.

Pluto might not be as smooth sailing as a West End production might be, but as a brand new play, it definitely is a strong first production for the Moonchild Theatre Company who’ve managed to capture the current issues perfectly.

Pluto runs at Baron’s Court Theatre until 23 April and will transfer to the Cockpit Theatre from 14 August until 17 August.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto

Moonchild Theatre Company: “The Planets have aligned for us”

A new theatre company has landed in London. The Moonchild Theatre Company is staging its first play Pluto at the Baron’s Court Theatre, starting 18 April.

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Charlotte Price (Charon/ Prof. Furtham) and Liam Joseph (Pluto)

The two co-founders Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien met as Front of House staff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Liam, whose background is theatre and acting and Callum who studied film, teamed up and not only co-found their theatre company but also created their first production. Callum wrote the script and is directing the play with Liam producing and starring in it. They both have a passion for space and astronomy and are interested in current affairs; socially and politically. Liam had already paid for the space at the Baron’s Court Theatre, so he asked Callum to write him a play.

“Pluto was an alignment of planets”, says Callum.

“When I was writing about space, at the same time I was reading an article on North Carolina passing a law in 2016 that makes you use the bathroom that you were born into. So, if you’re transgender that causes confusion. It was passed by a bunch of people who would never see the effect it would have on the community.”

He continues: “I was thinking about space and I was thinking about this story. People who have had their identity defined by people who do not know them and it’s quite similar to Pluto, who was a planet but is no longer a planet and it was defined for “him” based on people who have never been to the planet. I took these two stories and married them and we’ve created this unusual piece of work, but it works.”

“It could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we deal with politics, we deal with friendship, depression and you could take it literally and it could be a story of planets.”

The two criticise the London theatre industry. “A lot of shows nowadays cater to a very specific or older audience.”

Callum adds: “I think new writing can cater more towards a millennial audience. A lot that Pluto deals with is frustration, your voice has been stolen from you, your agency has been deprived, you cannot speak out for what you want to and it reflects the way millennials are portrayed as; numb observers.”

As director, Callum wants to make Pluto and turn it into an iconic object that could be the “figurehead of the LGBT cause.” However, he is worried about trying to tackle too many issues in their production. “We run the risk of writing something that could be about everything and nothing.”

Unlike many other theatre companies, Moonchild Theatre Company caters to millennials; “I’d rather make theatre accessible, but a lot of shows follow the older generation, and the tickets are so expensive.”

“All great artistic movements cater to the young and it’s foolish to overlook them, they will inherit the world one day. What you teach them now, that’s what they’ll take with them later in life and if you can get them interested in theatre and art now, hopefully there will be a future for art, especially in a world with an administration that cut art funding and pride things like guns and war.”

Looking at the news and everything that’s been going on recently the play seems to “come at the right time. I think there’s something happening right now, something is going to happen soon, the young people are beginning to regroup and feel there is this slight injustice against something.”

The two recount how everything has happened at the same time and how the timing of meeting at the Harold Pinter couldn’t have been better. “It’s like a volcano, everything has come at once, LGBT communities, Trump and technology. It never would’ve happened hadn’t we worked in the theatre together. Liam and I wouldn’t have met. Charlotte Price, who is also in Pluto also works at the Harold Pinter as front of house, so does Aimee Leigh the production manager and Giuliana Davolio the set designer for Pluto.”

“We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a supportive venue”

Their manager Rachel is interested in what their doing, as well as ATG. “It makes it worth what we’re doing, to know that your manager is interested in what you’re doing outside of work, it’s really warming and quite rare, not many theatres have that kind of support. She’s been so nice, she’s let us put the flyers around the building and helps us put them in other theatres as well”, says producer Liam Joseph.

“It’s encouraging to know that someone in such a high position cares about new writing and helping her staff .”

The rehearsal for the play is going well according to Callum. Even though this is a stressful time, he finds it rewarding. “It’s the most interesting learning curve for me, knowing how to develop the script. All four of us have fine tuned it and arranged it and moulded this play to be something that we all want to be part of.”

In the future the team wants to create and produce theatre as well as film. “We also want to look at merchandising our company, because we feel like we’re very sell-able”, says Liam. “We’ve got a cool logo.”

“Creatively we would like to go off in every branch in media and art.”

After Pluto, the theatre company will potentially put up an exhibit of pictures from Pluto’s set and production in an art gallery in Camden. “That’s what interested us, because theatre is never looked at through still images, with the exhibition, you meet theatre and film in the middle.”

Help Moonchild Theatre Company stage their first production and donate to their IndieGOGO page.

IndieGOGO from Liam Joseph on Vimeo.

Pluto transfers to the Cockpit Theatre in August. It’s running at the Camden venue from 14 August until 17 August and is part of the Camden Fringe Festival.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto