We had a test audience in on Friday and it was really exciting! Wanna know why? Well, they were each reaccounting their version of events and agreeing or disagreeing with one another depending on what they had experienced or observed throughout the show. Suddenly, there was a conversation about mental health that wasn’t there before! This is the purpose of ‘Northfields’ really, so if we’re starting as we mean to go on, then I’m feeling pretty positive about our upcoming run. Seriously, so much goes into making immersive theatre – from liaising with building management to queues and timings. Obstacles crop up all over the shop, but the birthplace of ‘Northfields’ is the glorious Memorial Church on Barking Road, which lends itself to the piece so brilliantly and it’s such a relief that it’s all coming together.
Creating an immersive experience around mental health is tricky business and when I think of everything this company has been through it amazes me. Winning Faith Drama’s ‘Theatre Madness Festival’ back in 2014 got us off to a brilliant start – It must be rare for a brand new theatre company to be a double award winner! And our placement on Theatre Delicatessen’s ‘Departure Point’ was a big deal in our development as an emerging company. The course consisted of a range of workshops and concluded with a scratch showing of ‘Northfields’, securing mentorship and support from The Lab Collective and Shoreditch Town Hall. Natalie Scott has been an absolute darling as our mentor, and our Research & Development at STH was a turning point in the overall shape of ’Northfields’.
One of the most important aspects of our work on ‘Northfields’ has been engaging in the amount of discussion happening around mental health right now. Dr. Stringer and the Extreme Psychiatry team do incredible work in decreasing stigmas around mental illness – we’re thankful to have been provided with such an insight to the treatment of mental health. Thankfully, Strings pointed us in Mental Fight Club’s direction, where the community at The Dragon Cafe have been a joy to discover.. Not to mention how excited we are by the ambition and discussions opened up by RE:CREATE Psychiatry – Check ‘em out if you’re wanting to explore ways of bringing about positive change to the current mental health service model 😉
Having secured mentorship from Faith Drama’s Gbemi Ikumelo back in 2014, we’re chuffed that the “theatre madness” continues after the festival. Two years on and Gbemi has given so much of her time in recent months – something she has very little of considering how bloomin’ busy she is aaaaaall of the time! From leading the casting to helping me with the script, ‘Northfields’ has really benefitted from Faith Drama Productions support. We really appreciate those who have also engaged with our work on an individual basis, such as our friends at Whitchurch Hospital and those who have helped by providing verbatim (which features in the show – ooer!). And big love to our actor friends who saved us in times of need, in countless scratch showings and so on. Of course, a special love to those former members of Shrink who are pursuing exciting endeavours elsewhere – you’re work on ‘Northfields’ has not gone unnoticed and we wish you all the luck in the world!
But of course, huge sloppy kisses to my core Shrinkies; Rowan and Moll. Rowan is bloody Wonder Woman I tell you! She’s been stage managing, producing, prop & costuming, sound & lighting, even friggin’ directing – yes. all. those. things! Jeeeeeeeeeeezzzzz loooooouuuuuise! I’ve been assisting and filling in the gaps. And Mollie is like blu tac. I sometimes get a little conscious that we’ve only really worked on one show so far… Compared to other companies who seem to dish ‘em out like, I dunno, chips. But hey ho, it’s our journey and we’re proud of it. The commitment to this project has been like nothing else.
There are a few honourable mentions to include here, such as Joe Webb for his work on the trailer, Kat Wojcik’s wizardry on our posters, the talented Pete Tweedie for his sweet photography skills, plus our lovely stage manager Francesca Lindsay who recently joined the team. Not forgetting our wonderful cast of course!! Their work on ‘Northfields’ over the past few weeks has been remarkable; it’s a mad show and they’ve taken it all in their stride. It feels like the finish line is looming and we’re only just getting started really.. But still, immersive theatre should never stop evolving and I’m excited for what else we’ll find during the run. So really, that’s pretty cool.
So now I’ve got that off my chest, I hope that is enough to convince you lot to buy a ticket to ’Northfields’! A lot of work has been plowed into this beast and now all we need is the audience to truly set this show alight! And even if you decide it’s not your cuppa tea in the end, I hope it will suffice knowing that you made a difference by being there. I think I’ve said all I could possibly say right now.. Big Love.