I am concerned with social theatre and its ability to raise awareness of current pressing issues. I want to bring the voices of the unheard and invisible people to the stage by going softly into the darkness and making light of our fragile human nature.
Stranger in the Mirror
43, sits in a plastic chair in a bare room, wearing a mismatched outfit, talking in an agitated manner.
I’m not who you think I am. I’m me, but an older, more boring version of myself. It started last week, well it was eight years ago, in my mind. I was at the most fantastic club; the music was pulsing, and I was at that stage of drunkenness you get before you fall down the other side of mount, witty and amazing. I felt incredible; I saw myself, young, free, vibrant, in the mirrored walls of the dance floor, then blurred faces and… broken glass.
Next thing, I wake up with a banging head and a mouth like the Sahara. These kids are jumping on me, shouting ‘Mum! Mum! MUM!’ I think, where is their bloody mother? I open my eyes and see these beady blue ones staring back at me. It’s a girl. She’s hungry, looking desperately at me as she shouts ‘Mum’ right in my face. Her hair flapping wildly as she lands on me again and again. I push her and the boy away. I’ve no idea whose bed I’m in, but these kids are convinced that I’m their mum.
My limbs are like lead as I hobble away from the bed. Feeling the bile rise in my mouth, like I’m going to puke, I stumble out of the room and open three doors before I find the toilet. I sit and do the longest piss; then panic takes hold.
I stumble to the mirror. Who the hell is that? I peer closer… wrinkles on my eyes and around my mouth, this isn’t me. And, oh my god, what is that?!! It’s a hair on my chin! Staring right back at me is a middle-aged woman of about 40… I freeze in fear, my stomach lurches, and my hairs stand to attention, a similar response I have with a shot of Tequila, except it’s a shot of reality.
I’ve got to get out. The kids are not in the bedroom anymore, so I hunt in the wardrobe for clothes. It’s depressing; a shapeless sea of grey, black and beige yawns back at me. Fuck I’m old and sad. I grab an outfit that hopefully won’t make me look like a middle-aged goth, get dressed and build up the courage to go downstairs.
I glimpse them on the sofa, and their blank faces twist towards me, then snap back to the TV. A phone starts ringing, but I can’t find it. I feel like I’ve forgotten something. I’m drawn to where the children are and look under the cushions on the sofa, suddenly the boy slumps forward. I notice the girl’s lips are tinged blue, she is still, her eyes like coal, looking at me, needing all of me. I touch her, my finger tingles as it traces the icy surface of her face.
Time is very jumbled in my head. I’m not sure how I got here… I’m not who you think I am. Dr? Dr…
Stranger in the mirror comments on how much a woman can change in the process of bearing children, to the point of being a stranger to herself—inspired by a news article on infanticide. The character Lola is suffering from a dissociative identity disorder.
A One-Act Play
The Werewolf of Hollingdean
It was a Monday morning when Sheena first recoiled in shock at the sight of hair growing on her face. It wasn’t in the usual place that women of a certain age expect to get it. Things started unravelling quickly after that, by the weekend, her voice had changed, and on the following Monday, she was convinced that her canines were becoming more pronounced. She’d gone from vegan to carnivore and…and worst of all, the cat had disappeared.
There are multiple projections of SHEENA and the REFLECTIONS, as well as a live performance on stage. They are trying on clothes and looking in a mirror, sucking in stomachs, pouting, standing on tiptoes, posing to the left, then to the right. After various, often humorous observations, the other forms of SHEENA ‘gang up’ on her staring at her, looking her up and down, and jeering at her downstage centre.
Boring, bland and styleless. My stomach, yuck! When did I start wearing so much black?
Does your bum look big in this? (Gesturing to SHEENA’S outfit) I think so. (Slaps SHEENA’S bottom)
Why have you got rolls, stupid, stupid stomach, that’s it breathe in, more, more, no pain no gain!
You shouldn’t have eaten that cake, no one will want to see you naked now! (laughs)
You’ve failed, no good at your job, no good at looking after yourself, no good at being a mum, no good at marriage (laughing cruelly), no good! No pain, no gain!
You’ve failed, no good at your job, no good at looking after yourself, no good at being a mum, no good at marriage (laughing spitefully), no good! No pain, no gain! (Adlib)
A Bright light flicks on as THE HUSBAND enters, and the reflections withdraw.
Sheena watches him like a jungle cat as he throws off his jacket, whips out his belt and throws off his socks, all silently making no attempt at conversation until he blurts out.
That doesn’t look right on you. (A pause as he looks at himself in the mirror) Are you going running this week?
The reflections snarl from the shadows
A Two Act Play for Youth Theatre
Synopsis of Sepsis
It is the year 2035; society has fractured due to a devastating pandemic and the end of working antibiotics. Class A citizens have spent a generation living in a unit-based lifestyle, rarely or never going out. Everything is delivered to their doors by the online retail company Zamon. Children meet in virtual classrooms for education. Artificially intelligent virtual assistants accompany them called VAs, which they personalise. There are strict contamination protocols. The unit people do not know who is in charge anymore as their virtual and actual life’s have been blurred. It has become apparent that everyone has a responsibility to live virtually due to scarce resources. Any infected unit people get taken away to infection zones and are usually never seen again as they are euthanised, but this fact is hidden. It is forbidden to drive, routes are heavily controlled, and paranoia, fear and isolation rule supreme.
The play centres around Jed, a rebellious but isolated teenage boy. He cannot make real contact with people and has never left his unit. As a result, physical contact terrifies him. His parents both disappear, leaving him a strange note asking him to ‘reveal the lie.’ He uses his hacking skills to interfere with the virtual classroom and invites a girl he likes, Layla Moon, on a road trip to find his parents.
The red grid appears from before covering the stage. Upbeat propaganda music underscores the following.
The safety of driverless cars has improved significantly with only a 5% error margin. Since the prohibition of human drivers and the limitation of travel routes, we can now rest easy that your journey is safer than ever before. Don’t forget we are with you every step of the way.
Jed is erratically driving. It is daytime and burning hot. Layla sits in the front, and Lexi’s hologram is in the back. The road is projected behind them.
You know many people; great people of the past discovered their life’s mission while travelling.
Take a right here, now! Now! Too late.
George Harrison, travelling to India, discovering the sitar. Lexi play sitar music.
Sitar music begins to play.
George Harrison, the Beatles! Oh my god, it’s like saying you don’t know Beethoven.
Erm. Lexi play the Beatles.
Ok, but I’m trying to navigate whilst convincing the grid you’re still at home so as not to raise suspicion. But sure, I’ll play the Beatles.
Multitasking, I reckon that’s why most VA friends seem to be girls.
The sitar music fades into ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by the Beatles. Once the song is established the journey seems to be running a lot smoother.
Keep going straight ahead. That’s it. Take this right. Smoothly done!
Yes, awesome Jed, you’re totally making up for the hour we spent in that car park thinking we were going to die.
You should be thankful it’s an automatic.
Steve Jobs, he went to India too. Got lice, scabies, then dysentery. Apparently, he came back and was so enlightened that he started Apple! Think of it, Lexi, without him, people like you wouldn’t exist.
I get it, Layla. Road trips are good. Gandhi had one and POTHOLE!
They hit the pothole.
Have you got a death wish!
Didn’t know what you meant, sorry.
Look, Jed, can you remind Layla not to distract the driver and the navigator.
Sorry, Layla, we can stop soon. The guy who sold us the car said when we get to the M23, it’s a straight line to Brighton, where they send the infected.
The industry turns into the countryside. Fields and fields of crops unroll behind them.
It’s so peaceful.
There is no one about: no signs, cars, people. Like a ghost town, ooh, love that song my granddad used to play it to me. LEXI play ‘Ghost town’.
The haunting song of Thatcher’s era by the Specials now accompanies images of derelict buildings, broken signs and overgrown roads projected all around.
Jed breaks suddenly, but it’s too late. The car crashes into debris on the road. Layla screams.
Monster presents as a dark psychological drama with moments of magical realism. Once drawn in, the viewer will be prompted to consider the role of trauma in substance misuse in homelessness. They will be moved to question the ethics of dehumanising victims of this terrible cycle by accepting they are part of a broken social care system. Monster explores whether we can truly escape the demons of a fractured past and what happens to traumatised people in a society where their behaviour is criminalised.
An encounter with an old friend impinges on the rising success of ambitious lawyer Olivia Barrow. As a working-class girl with skeletons in her closet, she isn’t going to let anything ruin her successful life with her trophy boyfriend, Alistair. When forced into a reunion with kids she grew up with, things sour. Like a game of snakes and ladders, she slides down into the gutter. All have a story to tell about drugs, addiction and trauma, and all are stuck in a relentless cycle of success and failure. Only privileged Alistair seems untouchable, skirting around the edges of a mid-life crisis.
The use of magical realism explores the cycle of trauma and addiction with the intention of keeping the audience engaged. I am interested in bringing invisible members of society to the stage and encouraging a debate on addiction. To do so, I have endeavoured to personalise the story to an intimate scenario between three children brought up in care. This makes it more accessible and less overwhelming. The tone is dark and surreal, with moments of absurd comedy.
Using staging and projection, I would like to visually explore themes such as reality versus abstraction and the discordance between the characters’ internal and external worlds. To depict how a person can feel alienated and dislodged from society through trauma. As well as highlighting how using drugs to mask an inability to cope can remove you from reality. I imagine this be explored through characters who switch between real people and rag dolls. The transformation of the actors will aim to represent the helplessness and disorientation of victims in a disabling social care system. I intend to personalise the problem of homelessness and substance misuse and shock people out of compassion fatigue using original staging concepts.
Why is it important?
One of the valuable roles of theatre is to entertain and reframe issues in society. In modern society, we should not be able to walk past people who are left to rot on the streets. The UK needs social theatre in the current climate of austerity and political instability.
Archie is on the street, itching and begging for money for his next fix. Everyone ignores him. He then sits centre stage and talks to the audience.
I can see you looking at me. They can’t. They’ve got spare change. But not for me, not for my fix, their fixes are too top end, the shoes, the phone, the food, the prostitute. Never tell a lie. Never…Never tell a lie that’s what my dad would say. They lie to me, I lie to them, they lie to themselves so they can stomach walking past a guy smacked out, tripping on the street in the middle of the day. Blocking the entrance to fancy shoe shops, lowering the tone. Did I ask to be here? Why am I here? I can see you… your eyeballs rolling down in pity… disgust… then away… pretending I’m not here… maybe I’m not here… but she is… she is… I see her…