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Hearing Things

Hearing Things

Omnibus Theatre

Hearing Things

Hearing Things

Omnibus Theatre

Reviewed – 10th January 2019


“The performers take accomplished material and lift it higher”


Nicholas is a psychiatrist struggling to keep his head above water. The drastically underfunded NHS hospital doesn’t have the resources he needs to be effective in his work, and at home his father is beginning to show signs of dementia. His patients are often hostile and incurable, and – like many burned-out, underpaid healthcare professionals – Nicholas begins to wonder whether the occasional small victories are enough cause to keep fighting what feels like a losing battle.

Writer Philip Osment and theatre company Playing ON have crafted Hearing Things from five years of work with psychiatrists, mental healthcare staff, and patients. The result is a poignant exploration of the UK’s broken mental healthcare system, and the ways it fails those who need it. Osment depicts the touching humanity of his characters on both sides of the doctor/patient fence. His scenes skilfully show how they reach for each other, and the obstacles between them.

The performers take accomplished material and lift it higher. All of them multirole, and none ever leave the stage. The character shifts are sudden, signalled only by a change in posture. Jim Pope successfully portrays Nicholas as a child, a university student, and an adult without any change to his appearance. Daniel Ward gives an outstanding performance as both Innocent, a young schizophrenic patient from Ghana, and Patrick, Nicholas’s father. His transformations are total. Again, without any alteration of wardrobe or appearance – just a hunch in the shoulders, a shift in accent, and a switch flicked behind the eyes – Ward is absolutely convincing as both the young, uncertain man and the intimidating, larger-than-life father.

Jeanette Rourke is a strong performer who plays Janet, a suicidal patient, Grace, Nicholas’s wife, and Hope, Innocent’s mother. However, it was disappointing and a bit uncomfortable to see a Ghanaian woman portrayed by a white actress, with accent and affect. There’s no specified ethnicity for the other two roles (Janet and Grace), so it’s a question why a white actor was cast. Lack of BAME roles, and the whitewashing of those that do exist, is an issue that’s been so passionately fought in the last year, it’s a shame to encounter it already in 2019. It’s a jarring note in the performance.

The fluidity of the play is remarkable. The set morphs as frequently as the characters, and with as little alteration. The stage is a beach – a clever illusion created using carpet and real sand – but it serves as at least five different locations, including the hospital, a house, and Sainsbury’s. That it all works, and works well, is a testament to the exceptional design, lighting, and sound team.

This is a story worth hearing now. In a fraught, overwhelming political climate that makes apathy tempting, Hearing Things reminds us why, even in the most hopeless circumstances, we still try.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Ron Bambridge


Hearing Things

Omnibus Theatre until 27th January


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Soul of Wittgenstein | ★★★ | February 2018
Mortgage | ★★★★ | March 2018
My Dad the Magician | ★★★★ | March 2018
The North! The North! | ★★★ | March 2018
Gauhar Jaan – The Datia Incident | ★★★★ | April 2018
The Yellow Wallpaper | ★★★★ | June 2018
Blood Wedding | ★★★ | September 2018
Quietly | ★★★ | October 2018
To Have to Shoot Irishmen | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Selfish Giant | ★★★★ | December 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Hearing Things

Playing ON present

Hearing Things

Written by Philip Osment. Directed by Jim Pope




Provocative drama affecting real change in mental health treatment

Hearing Things explores the dilemmas of psychiatry from the points of view of patients, relatives and staff. Based on experiences of psychiatrists and patients, the ‘healthy’ and the ‘ill’, looking at how and if people heal and recover inside institutions.

Created using a unique collaborative process between patients, psychiatrists and mental health staff, Playing ON have drawn together the stories of those receiving and providing mental health care. Hearing Things is the result of that work – a process which has instigated real change in the lives of patients.

Playing ON aimed to demonstrate to hospital staff how theatre-devising techniques can be used to build rapport and create empathy among service users.
As part of the writing process, staff and patients at the Maudsley Hospital in south London took part in a drama programme in April 2014. Improvisations were used as material for the finished play, with clinicians and those receiving treatment swapping roles. As a direct result of these workshops, two patient’s progress was so great that doctors allowed their early discharge.
“Without a quantitative evaluation using any rating scales, what we know is that virtually all the patients who were engaged in the six-week workshop programme were discharged at about the same time and in that respect I think that the performance clearly accelerated their discharge.  I know in two definite cases where I can clearly say the performance led to me discharging them.” Dr Dele Olajide, consultant psychiatrist.
This follows Playing ON’s core mission – marrying professional theatre and socially engaged practice.
Jim Pope and Philip Osment are joint artistic directors of Playing ON, who make quality theatre with communities whose voices are seldom heard.
Jim Pope is CEO of Playing ON.  He is an actor, director and teacher. He has directed Hearing Things (which he will also perform in) and designed a programme of drama to bring together psychiatrists and mental health service users.  He created the Playing Up programme for the National Youth Theatre, which delivers accredited professional drama training to NEET young people and has worked extensively in a range of settings such as prisons, psychiatric hospitals and homeless organisations.
Philip is a multi-award winning playwright, dramaturg and teacher. He has written and translated plays for a wide range of organisations including the RSC, BBC Radio and the Royal Court. His plays include Mad Blud (Theatre Royal Stratford East); WHOLE (20 Stories High) and Buried Alive (Hampstead Theatre).


Jeanette Rourke/ Hope, Janet, Grace

Daniel Ward / Innocent, Patrick

Jim Pope / Nicholas



Philip Osment/Writer

Jim Pope/Director

Miriam Nabarro/Set designer

Becky Smith/Sound designer


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