A pivotal depiction of a day in the life for Cam, day 28 of his Section 2 on the mental health unit. Peter Imms draws on experience in this evocative play:

Peter Imms drops us into a waiting room and director Georgie Staight pounces upon the sense of unease, as we expectantly wait for the inevitable. Justin Williams and Jonny Rust’s design plasters public health posters on the walls – the ones of pictures that make no logical sense, intended to calm & soothe and yet mainly appearing irksome. Peter (Jon Tozzi) picks up on it right away – the visitor more anxious about meeting old friend Cam (Nathan Coenen) after years apart. Staight’s conjured atmosphere is so recognisable in its realism that it captures our attention instantly.

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Jon Tozzi & Alexandra Da Silva (image courtesy of Tim Hall Photography)

And yet despite the familiar setting, Imms has painted a day in the life that many of us won’t be familiar with – this waiting room is on a mental health unit, where Cam has been sectioned. Section 2 deals with another aspect of mental health that we need to start openly discussing, especially among young adults – the 18-34 age range had the highest proportion of individuals sectioned under The Mental Health Act in 2016/17. Set almost in real time, over the course of a two-hour visit at a particularly poignant point in Cam’s stay with the unit, Imms makes the cold, clinical process feel personal. Rather than a soulless patient, this is an individual whose life is being debated. Staight broadens the focus further to incorporate the emotional impact that such an event has on those surrounding Cam – his sister Kay (Alexandra Da Silva) has put her life on hold and the stress is showing.

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Alexandra Da Silva & Nathan Coenen (image courtesy of Tim Hall Photography)

While all of the performances are competent, layered and complex – thanks to the attention to detail that Staight brings to proceedings – it is inevitably Coenen’s role as Cam that pulls focus. In the blink of an eye, Coenen is able to switch between chatty small talk (an effort to avoid the topic at hand) and moments of regressive vulnerability. From adult to childlike, we all feel his inability to understand where it went wrong when he continually utters, ‘I don’t know what’s happened to me’. As Imms’ script beautifully explains, often it isn’t one singular, explosive event, but the culmination of a multitude of little pressures that push us over the edge.

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Nathan Coenen (image courtesy of Tim Hall Photography)

If Coenen’s performance flits between friendly, fearful and fearsome, then Da Silva’s character Kay is consistently frayed, a pressure cooker in danger of boiling over. Her heightened emotional state at times runs the risk of being overplayed, but Da Silva manages to catch herself and recompose just at the tipping point, which lends an erratic but understandably frenetic edge to her performance. Under Staight’s watchful eye, both actors are able to take themselves to the emotional brink and yet pull back before they become grotesque or caricature.

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Alexandra Da Silva & Esmé Patey-Ford (image courtesy of Tim Hall Photography)

Section 2 is technically slick and emotionally fluid, a production that isn’t afraid to both delve deep and step back. Its success lies in its detail, the confidence taken to pause and allow the tension to build. Despite its conclusion, well-intended but conceptually pithy, Staight’s vision honours the intricate beauty within Imms’ script.

 

 

★★★★☆

No One Is Coming To Save You runs on Tuesdays and Fridays until 7 July 2018, one of the Breaking Out plays as part of The Bunker Summer Season. For more information, please visit the venue website.