I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few days, but I’ve had to take some time to sit with it, so I could identify why I was so blown away by this play. As a result, you have only a handful of performances left before this extraordinary show, written by and starring Athena Stevens, closes at the Park Theatre this coming Saturday (9 June 2018). It is well worth making the effort to squeeze in a theatre trip this week, if you can. I’ve been raving about this show to anyone who’ll listen, now it’s your turn. If I did star ratings, I’d definitely give Schism 5 out of 5.
The night I went to see the show there was a post-show Q&A led by MyTheatreMates’ Terri Paddock. She talked with Athena about the process of writing the play, the key themes and other related topics. If you want to avoid spoilers, you might want to save the Q&A video to watch after you’ve seen the show. It was a great session, Terri always does her research and gets a lot out of her Q&A participants. As an added bonus, there is a picture on of me grinning away and clapping on the front row, and yes, I look suitably dopey.
So here is my list of reasons to see Schism at the Park 90 (the smaller, more intimate space at the Park Theatre)
- 14 years in the writing, Athena Stevens (who also stars) has created a masterpiece. Running 2hrs 20 (including an interval) there are no wasted moments. Every line builds the story, drives the action and develops the characters. It really is a masterclass in play-writing. I was gripped from start to finish.
- This is potentially the best play I’ve seen about a relationship because both characters are so well rounded. By making Harrison the narrator, we get to see the inner workings of his mind, and judge accordingly. While Katherine is so refreshingly open in her wants and needs, even through the lens of his narration we get the sense that we understand what drives her.
- A lot of relationship dramas tend to be very insular. Beautiful but existing in a bubble removed from the outside world. Despite the story unfolding across 20 years in one room, the outside world is a key character in the piece. From school to work, via obnoxious strangers in restaurants, their relationship is shaped as much by each other as it is by the external forces around them.
- There are profoundly uncomfortable moments within the play, and this production isn’t afraid to lean into them. Given the intimacy of the Park 90, there is nowhere for the audience to hide, no distractions, it feels undiluted and as a result it packs one hell of a punch.
- The performances are spot on. Both Athena Stevens and Jonathan McGuinness are unflinching and authentic in their respective parts. These are two powerhouse performances that had me riveted throughout.
- While there are dark themes within the play, it is also packed full of humour. It is entertaining and attention grabbing throughout. Which is why I’d recommend it to anyone who loves theatre. This is not a show to struggle through and tick off a list, it is a piece of theatre to fall in love with.
- Yes, one of the characters has cerebral palsy. And while that informs the story, it doesn’t prevent it being universal and relatable. Anyone who is put off seeing a show because it one of the characters has a disability really needs to take a cold, hard look at themselves. There is far too little theatre created with fully formed characters that have a disability. We need to get better at that, and who better to lead the charge than Athena Stevens? Katherine is a genuine marvel of character development. I came out of the show wishing I was more like Katherine, while recognising that I’m more Harrison than I’d like.
- The Park theatre is a lovely venue, the Park 90 is a wonderful small space and with full price tickets costing £18, you get to see an extraordinary piece of theatre at a very reasonable price. You can find out more here: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/schism
The night I went to see the show there was a post show Q&A led by Terri Paddock. She talked with Athena about the process of writing the play, the key themes and other related topics. If you want to avoid spoilers, you might want to save this to watch after you’ve seen the show. It was a great session, Terri always does her research and gets a lot out of her Q&A participants. As an added bonus there is a picture on their site of me grinning away and clapping on the front row, and yes I look suitably dopey.
Post show Q&A photo above was taken by me. Has the added bonus of my being behind, and not in front of, the camera.