FringeReview UK 2018
Paper Creatures was founded by two of the actors of the quartet featured here, Nathan Coenan and Jon Tozzi. Directed by Georgie Staight Section 2 chronicles the fallout from a spiked drink. The Bunker’s black space is brightened by a moveable set by Justin Williams and Jonny Rust. Benjamin Winter’s sound is discreet and cleanly functional; Amy Warren’s movement is called on for climactic scenes; these actors move with shuddering conviction. At the Bunker Festival of six plays till July 6th.
Peter Imms’ Section 2 is one of the first two of the Bunker’s season of six new plays; the second of successive hour-length ones, though this lasts for nearer seventy-five minutes. It’s produced by Paper Creatures with The Bunker, and marks an important association with MIND who advised over accuracy.
It’s more than an important dramatized document though. Imms and his team have produced a remarkably truthful piece directed by Georgie Staight chronicling the fallout from a spiked drink. Paper Creatures was founded by two of the actors of the quartet featured here, Nathan Coenan and Jon Tozzi. They look at script synopses then develop them – as here, with the author and MIND. It’s a refreshing creative process, one that must enormously impact writers chose to work with. This is the second though; let’s hope it holds.
The Bunker’s black space is brightened by a moveable set by Justin Williams and Jonny Rust. The few white cube-shaped units and boards with cheery A2-sized nature photos move around to become a reception area or meeting room. In addition there’s ashtrays, fruit scrunched and popped, a few props on another cube table. Benjamin Winter’s sound is discreet and cleanly functional; Amy Warren’s movement is called on for climactic scenes; these actors move with shuddering conviction.
That spiked drink marks it out from much of what we might associate with afflictions in mental health. The accidentals, the strange byways by which one in four of us will suffer mental distress at some point in our life, though many won’t experience the Section 2 of the title, a twenty-eight-day compulsory admission that may or may not result in a Section 3, which can last up to six months. and so on. Equally, many won’t experience the lifelong diagnoses such as bipolar, or schizo-affective.
This latter spectre haunts schoolfellows Jon Tozzi’s Peter and Alexandra Da Silva’s Kay, who’ve not met in over five years. She tells him to stop drumming his fingers. It’s also the last thing she says at the play’s end. Within that full circle there’s been a turnaround and a journey, sometimes in lightning flashes. At first we’re not meant to be quite aware what’s going on.
As Esmé Patey-Ford’s Rachel tells Nathan Coenan’s Cam in another space (rapidly spun around by the actors), he can eat all the fruit he likes but most go out to smoke. Strange, before he came here he never smoked. Why now? At one point Cam smuggles in a lot of old butts. Till now it’s been rational, elliptical.
It’s a lot stranger to Peter, but Kay’s been putting up with this for a while. she’s living with Cam, when he’s not in the army. Now he’s in another kind of barracks, sectioned for his own good after apparently drinking something unwittingly. As Rachel says to an angry Kay, furious Cam’s being ‘infected’ with the schizo-affective schoolteacher Anton who set fire to a playing field, it’s not her job to pursue perpetrators. It’s everyone’s job to help Cam back to health. But Kay’s borne far more brunt than Peter knows. It’s Rachel who has to tell an outraged Peter that if Kay wasn’t being quite truthful when she claimed she’d visited every day (Cam said she stopped six days ago; this is the last day) – there’s a reason.
Now though we’re locked in with Patey-Ford’s Rachel, who gives a rivetingly quiet account of an empathic professional with cast-iron judgements to make, allowing for all the fall-outs. Not just with Cam whose behaviour fluctuates today. Patey-Ford at this point shines most, then the emphasis shifts to Coenan’s Cam; a jittery, panicky jokey and flashpoint-induced young man who hollows out his face till h haunts himself. the ex-rugby star and golden boy of the school who joined the army, Peter’s shocked by what he sees. Coenan’s performance jangles down the nerves; his look’s that of a sedative-fixated, memory-confused patient who Kay fears is deteriorating.
This generates the great flash point of the play: Da Silva’s furious onslaught at Patey-Ford’s professional Rachel, who proves time and again she’s professional, but not faceless. There’s no Blue-Orange dichotomy here, partly as the emphasis is on suffer and friends and not patient and two professionals as in Joe Penhall’s small classic from 2000. There’s no abuse of the system as so often in these dramas. The crux lies elsewhere.
The interaction between these two as Da Silva blows her considerable top is electrifying and very physical. You feel the play could go several ways. Tozzi’s Peter is helpless, fixated by loyalties, quandaries and being wholly out of his depth. He warmly conveys an articulate but wholly inexperienced young man rapidly lessoned in both his old friend’s health and how much Kay – and Rachel – have coped with. The coda after the crux decision is told in brief flashes; it’s all we need to know.
If the womens’ explosive acting is the highlight, Coenan’s and Tozzi’s own acting is remarkably convincing for the weight of narrative and character drive through them; particularly of course Coenan.
This is an urgent, compellingly written stunningly acted piece of naturalistic drama. With its open-ended and non-judgemental approach, its more hopeful direction and with production and acting like this, it should be filmed for mental health awareness week, and acted wherever possible. In the best sense, it’s a model of what happens when shit happens in the cognitive dissonance we all carry around, perhaps waiting to go off.