Saturday, 16 June 2018

REVIEW: Section 2 at The Bunker

A few months ago actress Patti Murin made the headlines by having to bow out of a performance of FROZEN on Broadway due to a sudden anxiety attack. After a slew of support she took to Twitter last week to admit that she suffered from issues with her mental health such as anxiety and depression in order to help #EndTheStigma surrounding the subject of mental illness. Murin’s bravery, like many others recently has started a very important conversation, and theatre company ‘Paper Creatures’ latest play ‘Section 2’ unearths the harsh truths of living with mental illness as a young adult. 

Cam is 24. Cam has been sectioned. He is on a Section 2 which means he is held in a psychiatric hospital for 28days in order to review if he is a danger to himself or others. He is cared for by his Key Manager Rachael, whilst he receives regular visits from his girlfriend Kay. However, when his best friend Pete turns up after 5 years of estrangement at the request of a confused and forgetful Cam, they all have to question how far this illness has spread and who it’s really harming. 

Georgie Staight’s direction is natural and fluid. She uses the space perfectly, creating a small claustrophobic environment which allows us to read every nuance and emotion each character is experiencing. Conversely she also allows the piece to breathe, making fantastic use of the pauses to lengthen the thought and to raise tension. The scene traditions aided by movement director Amy Warren, create a beautifully piercing extension of Cam’s mental insecurity: one minute his friends are helping him, the next they’re pushing past him and dropping things before he has time to catch them.

Nathan Coenen as Cam manages to expertly craft this honest and heartbreaking journey of a man who’s struggling to remember who he is as well as who he used to be. It’s raw and visceral; he leaps between extreme levels of anger, pain, sorrow and laughter with ease, and balance. This is made more wrenching by the stoicism of Alexandra Da Silva’s Kay, desperate to help her boyfriend’s extreme loss of mental identity, but at the same time struggling under the pressure of her own. Her coping mechanism is her gallows humour that is wonderfully delivered, but it’s when her strength and determination melt away under the weight of the stress that you see the devastation displayed in such painful beauty. Pete’s confusion at this alien situation is naturally crafted by Jon Tozzi, sure that he wants to help his friend but due to the estrangement isn’t sure he knows how. He captures that awkward nature wonderfully, and at the route of it he expertly plays the character we can all relate to: the one that wants to help, but is at a loss of how to really do it, because how can you help someone find themselves if they can’t find themselves? It seems an impossible task. It is one however that Cam’s nurse Rachael is trying to help them all make sense of, but it’s not an easy task. Esmé Patey-Ford breathes a sense of comfort into her, she oozes warmth and care, but she also has that strength to her as again, she determines the destiny of Cam and his treatment, which isn’t an easy weight to bare.

The real revelation of ‘Section 2’ is in Peter Imms’ writing. Imms has this innate knack of being able to perfectly write human reality. His words fly off the paper and out of the mouths of the actors with ease and surety. Everything he says is relatable and real, he grounds it all in truth and honesty, which allows you to easily connect, so he can therefore force you to face the subject matter straight on and unapologetically. Where he takes it home is in the wild tangents about dogs or tea making, where we find the humour that lifts us up and allows us to be brought down when he asks the questions: why do people ask us to sit down before we receive bad news because we already know the answer? or where is the Cam that Kay knew because she stares and him and all she sees is an empty vessel? 

What is it about our age? Fifty years ago it was all planned out, you got a job, got married, got a house all by the time you were 30. Nowadays we can’t afford to do all of that and there’s this inherent pressure to try and please former generations by having to conform to that archaic notion, and it’s to the detriment of our own mental health. ‘Section 2’ is an affecting and important play for our time, it forces us to face the very real possibility that we’re all a moment away from being consumed by the black dog, and for some reason or another very susceptible to having our own mental identity put into Jeopardy. It’s a conversation they want to continue, and it’s a conversation that needs to be heard. 

Paper creatures coupled with Mind U.K. to ensure all the action on stage was as authentic to the situation as possible, and that they would like to give back and give a web link to the mind donation page. 


Review by Ben Hipkiss

Rating: ★★★★★

Ticket Price: £15
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