Reviewed – 15th June 2018
“an excellently truthful depiction of how mental health can affect more than just the sufferer”
Within the last week we have heard about the untimely deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, both of whom tragically committed suicide. So, once again, mental health and its fickle nature has become topic for debate within the media, which makes Paper Creatures’ current production, Section 2, seem even more timely. While shining a light on our mental health system, it is the path to recovery and the strength and support of fellow humanity, which truly lies at the heart of the play.
As the title suggests, it is based around central character Cam (Nathan Coenen) being placed under ‘Section 2’ of the Mental Health Act, within a secure facility. At school he was a rugby champ, and went on to serve in the army, but now finds himself caught up with panic attacks and frequent memory loss. It’s Day 28: possibly the last day of Cam being sectioned and no one has been able to pin point exactly what is wrong with him, or how his mental downturn began, which makes things that much more frustrating for Cam’s long-term girlfriend Kay (Alexandra Da Silva), whose own nerves are only just hanging on by a thread. A decision must be made by Cam’s key worker Rachel (Esmé Patey-Ford) as to whether he is fit to return home or whether he needs more time to recover. Cam’s old friend Pete (Jon Tozzi) has also come to visit, and with Kay having not always seen eye-to-eye with him, causes friction in the waiting room.
Playwright Peter Imms creates an immensely sensitive and stirring piece of writing that accurately and very naturalistically portrays the struggles of dealing with mental health, either as the patient, or, the loved one trying to help them get better. One of the play’s strengths lies in picking up on the mundane of everyday conversations. As characters discuss the likes of whether milk should go first in a cup of tea, or the clichés of bringing grapes to an invalid, this slight, observational humour helps counter-balance the scenes of a more intense or distressing nature.
With Imms having had personal encounters with mental health, and Paper Creatures collaborating with the charity Mind, who offered advice, it appears that all has been done to achieve a well-rounded and authentic account. The four cast-members are collectively strong; all taking great care in coming across genuine and believable – with much success. All in all, an excellently truthful depiction of how mental health can affect more than just the sufferer, and the power that will and determination can hold.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
The Bunker until 7th July
Previously reviewed at this venue