Peter Street watched a script-in-hand performance at the Bolton Octagon in March 2007
In front of us are just half-a-dozen chairs, a black curtain, and that's it. This is a script reading-event - a tester to see if 'To Be Continued…' works. This has been organised by North West Playwrights as part of their prize-winning system leading to a full running production at the Octagon Theatre Bolton. There had been other plays in the running and this was the last of three. I haven't seen the other two, but here goes...
The set is simple with just a few chairs and there are six actors each holding a script. To Be Continued... is about emotion, memory and loss, with three of the characters trying to come to terms with disability, and with each other.
It is also about a kind of bereavement and all the stress and anger that comes along when mourning a once fit and healthy body. The play opens with Julia sitting centre-stage as though she is in a wheelchair. With her legs together, she complains loudly how she feels like a baby outside the shop in her wheelchair - her "pram" - as she also complains about patronising looks from fellow shoppers.
To Be Continued... is ultimately about truth, confronting the many issues and discriminations surrounding the mysteries connecting mental health and epilepsy. Julia's friends are mortified when they discover that her new friend David, who as well as having a mental health problem, suffers with epilepsy. The thought of their friend being taken/pushed out in her pram with someone with serious 'head' problems is far too much for them to handle - so they freak, big time.
The pace was about right, taking about one-and-a-half hours when fully acted out. I liked the fact that the play didn't hang about waiting for us to somehow feel sorry for any of the characters and the trauma they were going through.
The actors did a good job. They made it feel like a real play - one that was both entertaining and informative. But Julia (Victoria Brazier) stole the show. She convinced me she was a newly disabled person, with all the anger and frustration that follows. I felt that David and his various face-pulls somehow tried to look like he had epilepsy and some mental health problem, maybe trying a bit too hard. His performance wasn't bad - Julia was just so good.
I thought in these days of political correctness it would be unusual for able-bodied actors to play the parts of disabled characters. I didn't think this sort of thing happened anymore. But it does. It did tonight in a play that was screaming for the main part to be played by someone who is disabled. Perhaps when it's produced on stage as a full play and not just a script-reading those characters will be played by disabled actors. I hope so.
To Be Continued... is a play for all those who are care for humanity and everything human.