David Shears co-stars with Felicity Huxley-Miners in her two-hander In the Shadow of the Mountain, premiering at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 15 May. In our interview with David below, we found out the very personal reason he wanted to perform this story of how a couple’s relationship is affected by Borderline Personality Disorder – and co-produce it as well. Time to get booking! ‘
In the Shadow of the Mountain runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 15 May to 2 June 2018, with a press night on 17 May.
Rob stands on the edge of oblivion just as the chaotic Ellie careers into his life. They desperately need each other but is Ellie, who’s struggling with her own Borderline Personality Disorder, really the best person to try and help? Sometimes you can only save one person. And it’s okay if that person is you.
This touching, funny story explores a relationship born in the throes of a mental health crisis as a couple struggles to find their place in the world.
In the Shadow of the Mountain is written by Felicity Huxley-Miners who also stars, playing BPD sufferer Ellie opposite David Shears as Rob. The premiere production is directed by Richard Elson and presented by Instinct Theatre and Quantum Frolic Theatre.
Talking to… David Shears
Why did you get involved in this project?
I think that a lot of theatre at the moment has been bogged down in style over substance, things packaged to deal with the ‘issues’ and are very surface; paying lip service to what it is to be human without really engaging in it. What I liked about In the Shadow of the Mountain was primarily that it was about people first, people who, yes, have their mental health issues, so to speak, but are primarily engaged with the complexities of just being alive in this age and this time. That is what interested me because it looked at something that is real and that we deal with every day but in a way that’s quite incisive, clever, funny and tragic and just… interesting.
Why did you want to produce this as well as act?
When I was initially contacted about acting in the play, I had only seen the first scene as it stands now. That had got me excited because, as a standalone piece, it was well written and structured and looked like it would be fun to play, which is primarily what you want in any job – to get some satisfaction out of it.
We did a new writing night and a bit of R&D at Southwark Playhouse, which was an opportunity to start playing with the characters, putting it into a space and getting it up on its feet. From that, some months went by and Felicity Huxley-Miners contacted me to ask if I would be interested in acting in the full-length version of the play, which I read and loved. I said I’d be very happy to.
“Everybody feels, everybody breathes, everybody loves, everybody, at some point or another, has a problem with their mental health.”
I’d started Quantum Frolic, my own company, the previous year and was looking for shows that met our ethos but also shows I believed in to invest time and energy into. I thought this would be a good opportunity to put my money where my mouth was, literally and figuratively. I haven’t regretted that decision at all because, whatever comes from it, it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of learning experiences and I think I’ve got better as a theatremaker and as a performer as a result of doing this.
Why did this particular story resonate with you?
Two reasons. On the one hand, the relationship that Rob and Ellie find themselves in parallels some of my own direct life experience. I thought I’d be able to bring an authenticity to the character and an understanding of the story so I’d be able to put my own stamp on it whilst engaging with the demands of the character.
Also, I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for about five years now. That’s something that I’m very open about and very willing to talk to people about. I thought, this is a well-written play with good characters and a good story, but it’s also the opportunity to be able to enhance the dialogue around mental health.
“I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for about five years now. That’s something that I’m very open about”
It raises awareness of mental health in such a way that you know a diagnosis or issue that we have is not something that should necessarily be labelled and categorised. The reality is that everybody feels, everybody breathes, everybody loves, everybody, at some point or another, has a problem with their mental health. Otherwise, you might as well say somebody goes through their whole life without ever getting a cold: it doesn’t happen. The difference is physical ailments are much more manifest.
If you can also do it in a way that makes people think, makes them feel, makes them laugh, makes them cry, makes them smile, makes them think about what it is to be human, to be themselves and how they would react in these situations, anything that makes people feel genuine things has to be an advancement for theatre. It has to be a good thing for the arts. As long as people don’t come away from In the Shadow of the Mountain shrugging their shoulders, as long as on some level it provokes a reaction, then I’ll be very happy.
What’s next for you?
For myself as an individual in the immediate future, I’m still working as an actor, voice actor, writing myself, keeping busy. Felicity is going off to Edinburgh this summer so this gives me an opportunity to pick up the pen and start working on a musical I’ve spent the last year and a half working on with a very good friend of mine, Jono Sharples, which has been a lot of fun. I’ve also got a few other projects in the works story-wise so it’s back to the grindstone.
With Quantum Frolic, I’m looking at trialling a writer-in-residence programme, finding new writers we think are exciting and giving them a platform. Ideally, a lot of future projects would also be working in conjunction with Felicity and Instinct Theatre because I’ve really enjoyed the experience so far and found it very valuable. I think we have a great working dynamic which is a good platform for success.
In the Shadow of the Mountain runs from 15 May to 2 June 2018 at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS!