Students saw the critically acclaimed play Mess, which deals with the subject of anorexia, during a recent visit by Caroline Horton and China Plate. The play launched at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and its unusual style, which blends sparse theatre production with humour, has mean that it has become a hit for Ms Horton and China Plate and is half way through a ten-week tour when they will appear at venues as diverse as village halls and Birmingham Rep.
The play is based on Caroline’s experience of anorexia and, while at Brooke Weston, the theatre company, which also comprises actors Emily Goddard and Seiriol Davies, led theatrical workshops with some of our Gifted and Talented students.
Caroline said: ‘All the way through the development process there was a sense of “is this a good idea?” partly because it is such a personal story and also a really tricky subject. There are lots of rules about how to deal with it; you have to be very sensitive or very real. It is a play … about anorexia, recovery and is both hopeful and realistic because it is based on my story and my story is a hopeful one.’
Caroline, who has been nominated for an Olivier award for her one woman show You’re Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy, said: ‘I did a lot of theatre at university and worked out quite quickly that I was more interested in trying to form little companies and making my own work from scratch than I was in to straight acting jobs.
‘We have played to audiences of very different age groups and in general the younger audiences maybe click into it more immediately. On the last tour was a woman whose son had really struggled with drug addiction and found it really close to her experiences because the play is very much a balance between Josephine’s perspective as the sufferer and Boris’s perspective as the one affected and around that sufferer.
‘The students were brilliant, the workshop was great and having a whole mix of ages was really nice. It was an eating disorder awareness workshop. We use theatre techniques in it and it is raising awareness about what it means to have an eating disorder, dispelling some common myths and what do you do if you are trying to support someone.’
Jack Sloan from Year 11 and Year 8 student Ella Shepherd took part in drama workshops. Jack said: ‘I thought it was very clever how they managed to get all the messages that they did across but still manage to keep it entertaining enough so that people would watch it.’
Ella said: ‘Some parts were funny, some parts were serious and I liked how they incorporated both into a subject matter that not many people like to talk about. They had the extra character who made it really funny so that it all came together and lightened the mood to make it an enjoyable, not depressing play.’
Teacher Mrs Halloway said: ‘For me Mess, Caroline Horton and China Plate theatre company embodies what I feel is real theatre, back to basics, back to real acting. There were props but they were minimal and it gave the students something visually beautiful without all the technology and media that they are so often bombarded with. For me the biggest aspect was that I had Year 8 students working with Years 9, 10 and 11. They didn’t know each other and they were just getting involved and they were all learning something from each other. The charisma and the maturity from all of our students was astounding.’