"An emerging company to watch"
by Alan Ward for remotegoat on 30/06/18

Section 2 from Paper Creatures shows at The Bunker near London Bridge as part of Breaking Out, a showcase of eight shows from six emerging theatre companies.

I have strong positive associations with this venue. The Bunker is one of those rare theatres where I’ve only ever seen great productions. That absolutely still stands, though on this occasion I wasn’t keen on receiving a sticky wristband instead of a ticket (I doubt they can be recycled, and I’m now missing a few hairs from my wrist).

Running at a little over an hour, Section 2 is a one-act play which punches hard. It’s a thoroughly heartfelt, though at times academic, exploration of residential mental healthcare in England.

Cam is 24 and has recently been sectioned. The drugs he’s on to treat him are causing symptoms (memory loss, confusion) almost as bad, if not worse, than the issues that brought him to residential care in the first place, though the implications of this are never fully explored. The message of the piece, which was supported in its research phase by the mental health charity Mind, seems to be to trust the system.

There’s a fine line between being a patient and being a visitor. Sometimes it’s hard to see why one person is undergoing treatment and another is still functioning in society. This is a point Kay (played by Alexandra Da Silva) makes several times throughout Paper Creatures’ production. Director Georgie Staight has brought together four confident performers here, and there are no weak links. Nathan Coenen as Cam presents the harrowing potential impact of treatment on someone struggling with their mental health with credibility and confidence, and, as his key worker, Rachel, Esmé Patey-Ford reminded me very much of people I’ve met who work in this field. The calming, soothing voice, the excellent eye contact and utterly unthreatening manner.

In terms of the set, a wall that could be wheeled about and turned around to indicate the play’s two settings was unnecessary, yet moved about with great frequency – often by a lone actor looking a bit worried its flimsy wheels would see it crash. In general, the scene changes were well choreographed, however perhaps an hour-long production doesn’t need to spend so much time juggling chairs short distances to differentiate between two settings which are pretty much the same anyway.

Peter Imms’ script does an excellent job exploring more than just the patient’s point of view. We get a good sense of how Cam’s situation impacts those around him, from one-upon-a-time friend Pete (an engaging Jon Tozzi), girlfriend Kay, to key worker Rachel.

This production continues to show at The Bunker until 7 July 2018. After that, let’s keep an eye on what Paper Creatures does next: they’re an emerging company to watch.

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