By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.
This week the inspirational Progress Theatre are staging two original plays which examine the troubled world of mental health.
The first, Recovery Position, by the insightful Anthony Travis, sensitively directed by Matthew Beswick and Ali Carroll, explores the disintegrating psyche of Francis, who has been caught up in the 7/7 terror attacks. It is a tour de force performance by the playwright himself, as he revisits his past painful traumas on a starkly lit stage… his disturbing world is populated by significant people in his life, vividly portrayed by the stellar cast.
Francis’s inner turmoil is mirrored by the Foley sound effects which are created by the imaginative cast members. They are in full view in an eery pink light; they and their devices, like Francis’s soul, are laid bare.
As we follow his tortured journey, it is difficult to discern what is real and what is fantasy. But who are we to question or judge?
This is powerful, poetic theatre… do catch it.
SH!T, written by Liz Carroll, stars the playwright herself as Edie, a seemingly locked-in elderly lady in a wheelchair. She is cared for by a no-nonsense charge nurse, played with world-weary cynicism by Chris Moran, and a new arrival on the scene – an earnest young trainee therapist determined to break through Edie’s silence. As the therapist, Bradley Hepburn gave a touching performance that reflects the innocence and enthusiasm of youth, before moments of frustration start to take their toll.
As the play moves on, flashbacks give us glimpses into to Edie’s long and eventful life – but are her memories real or part of a fantasy world? These delightful scenes provide moments of comedy, with music and dialogue that transport us back to world war one. The intimate set brings the audience close to the interaction as we see Edie go through a tearful parting with a young lover (Hepburn). Lest we get too carried away on the high drama of these Close Encounter-type memories, there are reminders via the young Edie (an endearing portrayal by Samantha Bessant) that these memories may be wishful thinking rather than fact.
One of Edie’s memories seems to be true – her childhood desperation to win approval from her authoritarian father (a chilling performance from Peter O’Sullivan). A darker side of the relationship is revealed toward the end of the play.
The input and taut direction by Aidan Moran and Kate Shaw keeps the play moving at a constant pace as we try to reconcile the Edie we see in a wheelchair and the Edie of her memories. SH!T reminds us to look beyond the ordinary appearance of older people and remember that they were once young, with extraordinary events in their lives.
- The Progress Theatre website and Facebook page
- Premières at the Progress Theatre
- Progress Theatre tickets