Paper Creatures Theatre return for their second production, Section 2, which premieres in Breaking Out at The Bunker Theatre. Daniel Perks catches co-artistic directors Jon Tozzi and Nathan Coenen to discuss the work:

Paper Creatures have been a fully-fledged theatre company for just over 12 months and frankly, they are smashing it. Their first show, Flood, played as part of Camden Fringe 2017 at the Tristan Bates Theatre. Six dates and they all but sold out, not a bad start for an inaugural production. But this is their second show – the second album syndrome, so to speak,

‘I feel like there’s often talk about a company’s second show – sometimes a bit of pressure comes with that, trying to make it something more than the first production.’ comments Co-Artistic Director, Nathan Coenen. ‘But because the play itself is something we’re so passionate about, I don’t feel that – it’s just about this show, getting it out to people.’

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Jon Tozzi & Nathan Coenen

Both Nathan and fellow co-artistic director, Jon Tozzi, seem very calm about Section 2, their upcoming show, when I speak with them in a sprawling beer garden. Having interviewed these two before, the thing I remember most (apart from the beanie hats) is the combination of fiery passion and relaxed ease. Jon and Nathan are clearly stoked about this next show, but equally come across serene as swans about the whole process. Perhaps there is some frantic paddling going on underneath the surface,

’This is such a special piece of writing that we’ve been developing for seven months.’ remarks Jon. ‘It’s such a sensitive matter, so we want to make sure it’s tackled in a way that’s respectful and gives people the opportunity to learn something new – to have an experience, rather than sit and watch. We’ve done so much research, so we want to get the ball rolling.’

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Playwright Peter Imms & Director Georgie Staight

Maybe then, this is less a calm exterior and more a quiet confidence in the work. After trawling through multiple playwright submissions, the two producers chose this one piece on the back of just a handful of pages and have worked with playwright Peter Imms to develop the narrative in tandem with their company,

‘Pete told us that this play was inspired by personal experience.’ explains Jon. ‘He’s written about something that he’s encountered, something that he’s experienced. It automatically has an element of truth, immediacy and connection that we as a company can help build upon.’

‘There’s a responsibility that comes with doing this play that we’ve taken on in full force.’ notes Nathan. ‘We’re making sure it turns into a play with integrity – doesn’t censor itself but doesn’t over exaggerate anything for dramatic shock.’

Collaboration is key, it seems. As is the space and time for a work to grow and breathe – something that new writing by new playwrights, or with new theatre companies, is rarely given these days. Get it up on its feet, get it staged, make a name and move on. Far too often this strategy is to the detriment of the work itself, a rushed ethos in a world influenced by fast-paced technology and ever-shortening attention spans. That is, if we are to believe public perception.

So, to Section 2 itself, a mental health production that openly discusses the aspect of sectioning. It’s part verbatim, taken from Imms’ personal experience of having a friend sectioned under the Mental Health Act (1983). In the production, Nathan plays the protagonist Cam, and Jon the part of Cam’s friend, aptly named Peter…

‘I was quite nervous about it, wanting to make it as realistic as possible but not make it stereotypical.’ explains Nathan when talking about the responsibility of such a role. ‘Talking with people who have been sectioned, who have dealt with these kind of conditions, has given me a helpful, honest, brave insight into what it’s like to be in that world.’

As part of the marketing behind Section 2, the company have released interviews with individuals who selflessly opened up about their own knowledge of this process. In conjunction with Mind, it’s a fitting way to broaden out the conversation, destigmatise the issue at hand and engender confidence for people to more freely discuss their own experiences,

‘Writing about sectioning, about mental health in its extremities – dealing with psychosis, bipolar, schizophrenia – there’s a simplicity, a truthfulness that isn’t One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Peter’s writing captures that simplicity beautifully.’

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Nathan Coenen & Jon Tozzi

Both Nathan and Jon are clearly passionate about this topic, such is the ease by which they talk of the subject. With such a well-researched play, supported by strong producing acumen, it’s no surprise that they were shortlisted for the inaugural Untapped Award. Presented in conjunction with Underbelly and New Diorama Theatre, the award provides early- and mid-career artists the funds and support they need to bring their work to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in an environment that is more and more prohibitive for those fringe companies without sufficient capital,

‘I applied for that on a whim – why not?’ Jon says. ‘It just proved to us even more that this play needs to be told. The fact that it got shortlisted out of all those applications for the platform of Edinburgh gives us the confidence that we’re choosing the right material. Mental health is talked about a lot, but there’s something about this play in particular that needs to be told.’

Section 2 Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Untapped Award – Finalists 2018

Unfortunately, Paper Creatures didn’t quite make it over that final hurdle, losing out to Nouveau Riche, Breach Theatre and This Egg. But, from that disappointment came the opportunity at Breaking Out with The Bunker – when one door closes and all that metaphor…

‘It’s great being in the Breaking Out season.’ exclaims Nathan. ‘We’ve always been big on the idea that theatre companies should be able to enhance that community and work together – this is another opportunity for us to meet new companies and explore these different stories.’

‘We went to The Bunker when it first opened with Skin A Cat – just seeing this venue that was full of like-minded, fresh audience members was completely new. It’s been an aim to play there.’ adds Jon. ‘I met with the producer whose piece is on the same night as us – it’s lovely to talk to each other about the work. It’s all a springboard, a starting point. Ultimately, you’re always looking for feedback, a way to develop the art.’



Section 2 runs on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 June – 7 July 2018, one of the Breaking Out plays as part of The Bunker Summer Season. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the venue website.