Drink With a Chimp is the first show from new Leeds based theatre company Common Chorus. It has been created out of real recovery anecdotes based on primary research with service users at Spacious Places recovery centre. So far I have been to two events that have been part of the build up to the show going on a short preview tour around West Yorkshire between 4th – 13th June.
The first event was a show actually performed by clients at Spacious Places called Recovery Stories. Their experiences cleverly intertwined into a story about a woman who remained nameless and her journey from using to recovery that began with her addiction and her abusive partner and the terrible loss of a child.
The performance made me sit rigid in my seat and the artistes made this story breathe and feel so real. They use pitch and poise in their delivery enabling me to paint a vivid interior picture. The scene was set visually with the performance space hinting at a Christmas theme and soft lighting created a still mood. As this was a rehearsed reading the performers had scripts and initially I thought this would detract from the believability of the performance. Thankfully I was proved wrong and I felt it added an authentic element to the piece.
The storytelling was based around the 12 Days of Christmas which actually became the 12 steps of recovery. The story of the young woman breathed vitality which was both realistic and inspirational creating real empathy for the characters from the audience. The delivery was very engaging and the storytelling warm but, when required, harsh, brutal and dark as those of us who are in recovery know only too well! My concentration level these days is quite poor however this captivated me from the beginning and maintained perfect pace throughout.
Having really enjoyed the first show myself and a colleague from The Space Recovery Community were more than happy to go along to a second stage in the journey of the show. Professional theatre company Common Chorus were now developing a new show based upon the stories from the Spacious Places clients. They wanted to show some ideas before it was finished so we went along to Theatre in The Mill in Bradford to see the scratch performance of the show.
Theatre in The Mill is a cosey and welcoming venue with amazing wooden cladding on the inside walls in the reception space. A decorative tip for my flat I think!! On entering the theatre we were greeted by a Chimp not a real one by the way, however you could be forgiven if you did think it was real!
We were going to see what was the first half of the story all about alcohol addiction as an emotional crutch, alongside the everyday struggle with a chimp that influences our thoughts and desires. We heard briefly about how the character, now named Sally, first started using alcohol and then the storytelling focused more upon the addiction journey in all of its unpleasantness. The imagery used was evocative and as the narrative progressed clever use of props re-enforced the story.
Antidotes taken from Dr Stephen Peters’ The Chimp Paradox added elements to the story. Without spoilers I can only conclude that what I have been privy to is awesome, powerful and entertaining all in one.
Director Simon Brewis comments: “Drink with a Chimp is about hope, it’s about good mental health, it’s about what we learn from people who’ve travelled to the edge and made it back again. Working with the clients at Spacious Places I’ve discovered so much that’s transferable to many parts of my own life. I want the story we’re telling to help an audience understand how a person gets to that stage and more importantly how the recovery works. Drink With a Chimp isn’t a tragic story – it’s a story about how a person can journey from rock bottom to become a role model.”
Preview by Paul Ford
Thur 4 June, 7.45pm, presented by the Big Bookend Festival @ Carriageworks Studio Theatre, Leeds (sold out)
Fri 5 June, 7.45pm, presented by the Big Bookend Festival @ Carriageworks Studio Theatre, Leeds
Box Office 0113 224 3801 / www.carriageworkstheatre.org.uk £8 / £6
Tues 9 June, presented by The Space @ St Georges Crypt in Leeds, 7pm
To book call 01132 440008 / email Sam.Wall@multiplechoice.org.uk Pay what you feel
Wed 10 June, 12 noon, The Basement Project, Halifax
To book email email@example.com Pay what you feel
Fri 12 June, 7.30pm, The Friargatre Theatre, York
Box Office 01904 613000 or online www.ridinglights.org £8 / £6
Sat 13 June, 7.30pm, South Parade Church, Headingley in Leeds
To book call 0113 2754989 / http://buytickets.at/commonchorus