Partisan Theatre and Mental Fight Club in association with Stepping Out, Fallen Angel and Simon James Collier

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Time Out  July 2 - 8  2009

moonshadow by Steve Hennessy directed by Chris Loveless


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Time Out Critics' Choice: Show of the Week

Tuesday 23rd June to Sunday 19th July 2009 (No performances Mondays) at
The White Bear Kennington


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Moonshadow by Steve Hennessy


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     Review - Time Out   silverfourbluestars.gif (635 bytes)  Critics' Choice: Show of the Week

The moon and madness may sound like an overworked theme, but Steve Hennessy, who has written extensively about mental health issues, manages to bring a fresh angle to it in ‘Moonshadow’. John is prone to bouts of religious mania and violence, but his main obsession is getting to the coast to see 1999’s total eclipse. As his fixation grows, it draws in his doctors and the ‘sexually uninhibited’ abuse victim Judy.

If this sounds grim, it isn’t. Hennessy’s play is concerned with roles of authority and subservience, but also the bits in between and outside: scenes are brief and episodic, as the ground shifts between the characters. The mattress-like padding of the set, studded with bright constellations of nail-heads, suggests both incarceration and the freedom and security of childhood bedrooms. As John astrally projects his way to Cornwall, a landscape haunted by horrors from his growing up, these realms overlap. The ephemeral becomes the constant, as the notion of eclipse comes to represent the extinguishing of self, whether through death or dissembling.

Among four really excellent actors, Michael Dylan stands out as John: fragile and maniacal, your daft hippy mate and a monster, one minute quoting the Book of Revelations, the next saying whoever wrote it must be ‘on mushrooms’. But it’s Beverley Longhurst as Lucy – a quizzical health professional who initially seems like the very font of rationality, but ultimately occupies the most morally questionable role of the four – who brings an extra dimension. It’s a brilliantly nuanced performance, and typical of this great production.

Review - Extra! Extra! (excerpts)

Moonshadow is so much more than the synopsis will have you believe. The strength of the play may lie in other places, but the beauty is definitely in its intricacies. Mental health, psychiatry, religion, sex, life – just some of the issues explored with an unbiased sincerity. As was to be expected from a performance produced by companies that deal directly with mental health issues, the play was as educational and eye-opening as it was entertaining. So much thought was given to each character – their emotions, insecurities, conflicts – that you cared for their happiness and empathised with their shortcomings.

And therein lies the first big strength of the play – the acting. There’s only so much a script and a director can do in getting the audience to care about what they are watching. The real work is left to the actors on the stage on the day, and they delivered. There was an honesty in every performance, a sense of reality that sucked the audience in. [Michael] Dylan heads the cast as John and is tremendous in his depiction of a lovable but troubled soul. Whether it’s sitting alone on stage talking to the audience, or interacting with the rest of the cast, he is flawless. The rest follow suit admirably, though. As Judy, [Annabel] Bates is brilliant, switching between humorous love interest and sex-craved patient with little effort. It also takes little effort to hate [Oliver] Hume’s portrayal of Doctor Brown, his large frame and excellent facials adding to his cold demeanour; and finally, [Beverley] Longhurst is perhaps the character we are most looking forward to hearing, her delivery beautifully laced with sarcasm and wit.

The other strength of the play is in its technical department. There are very few props – four cubed boxes and a long rectangular one, to be exact – and that is about it. Sound and lighting is used simply, scene changes were quick and everything flowed without any trouble. It didn’t seem like there was a strong desire to get too complex, and that worked.

In fact, simplicity is what is most enjoyable about the whole experience of watching Moonshadow. There aren’t cleverly crafted sets or needlessly difficult uses of sound and light. There aren’t elaborate scene changes that leave you waiting too long, or a complex plot that is difficult to follow. This is, quite simply (no pun intended), an honest production that concentrates more on performance than glamour. A play like this shows that tons of money does not need to be spent to watch good theatre; brilliant theatre can be found in small venues. Theatre and new writing at it’s most raw.

Review - Plays International

A decade on, Steve Hennessy’s play Moonshadow is being revived at The White Bear in Kennington, and is still – disturbingly – relevant in its potent critique of psychiatric practices. John wants to see the eclipse and feel the touch of the moon’s shadow but in the Catch-22 craziness of his sectioned existence, the more he wants to go, the more he’s seen as proving he can’t be allowed. Dr Brown diagnoses paranoid psychotic delusions and refuses leave, so the only way John will see the eclipse is by astral projection. A minimalist set enhanced the impact of celestial lighting effects as John sails over Taunton, defying his dead, but still monstrous, stepfather to swallow the sun. “If you’re ever going to come out into the light you need to go into the darkness.”

As with most of Steve Hennessy’s plays, the central theme is that psychiatry dehumanises, and creates a system in which the only differences between carers and cared-for are the labels and the salaries. Four lonely people wrestle with the pain of living and the damage of their pasts, but only John has the astral motorbike. He may be prone and drooling, but when the ECT has worn off, he’ll be riding high…

Brilliant performances by Michael Dylan and Annabel Bates as the endearing patients and Oliver Hume and Beverley Longhurst as their equally ‘sexually disinhibited’ but better paid (and without files & labels) authority figures. Insightful direction by Chris Loveless brought out the bleak realism as well as highlighting moments of wry humour in this powerful play.

Review - The Stage

Madness, rare astrological events and Biblical language are all inherently dramatic - so for a playwright, a psychiatric ward, where a psychotic star-gazer equates the moon’s shadow with religious rebirth, provides a prime vantage point for the total eclipse that held Britain rapt almost 10 years ago.

Melodrama could be a problem, as well as daunting similarities to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but convincing acting, under Chris Loveless’ direction, makes us believe in the agonising tension, hope and despair of life at the margins as only more extreme forms of what any of us feel.

The short version of the plot synopsis is cult psychiatrist RD Laing’s observation - devastating for patient and psychiatrist alike - that “psychiatry is the Crucifixion without the Resurrection”.

To expand, secured patient John, played compellingly by a tousle-haired Michael Dylan, is full of lilting Irish charm until thwarted in his dream to make it to Cornwall for 11 minutes past 11 on August 11, 1999.

By way of subplot, he is entangled with fellow patient, the sexually needy Judy (Annabel Bates) against a musical backdrop of Madame Butterfly.

At the same time, the awkward, unsexy Doctor Brown (Oliver Hume) is tormented by nurse Lucy (Beverley Longhurst), whose angry loathing rivals that of her charges.

Review - British Theatre Guide (excerpts)

A piece of engaging theatre, due mainly to the sincerity of the performances in it.

Although it is set in a mental health hospital - of which the padded walls of Ann Stiddard's set constantly remind us - it doesn't try to explain any particular case or procedure. It simply gives us a glimpse into the lives of two patients and of a doctor and a nurse who work there. In doing so it demonstrates just how thin is that line between those with mental problems and those supposedly without them.

Michael Dylan makes John so convinced by his beliefs that one can't help wondering if it's the secularist unbelievers in this millenialist prophecy who are going to be proved wrong. His enthusiasm and conviction when he believes himself on the astral plane give him a moving innocence that makes his memories of a sadistic father more horrible and he brings a cunning charm to his attempts to manipulate his doctor by being excessively compliant though his duplicity is totally transparent.

Annabel Bates gives Judy a disarming openness, with glimpses of another manipulative agenda; her sassy Essex or East London manners the more knowing when contrasted with John's rural accents.

John at times has seen his violent father, and now his doctor, in the guise of God. Certainly Dr Brown has power over him. Brown may have god-like power over his patients but Oliver Hume plays him as a man full of his own insecurities. He's jealous that John and Judy have got together. An attraction to nurse Lucy, who seems opposed to many of his medical decisions, is not reciprocated, despite the fact he has made her pregnant after a drunken party. Beverley Longhurst's Lucy is obviously a strong-minded young woman determined to stand on her own two feet, a responsible carer who is becoming disillusioned with her work and her colleague.

Chris Loveless's direction has drawn confident performances from his cast and his pared-down production, moving easily from real world to inner world, concentrates the attention.

This is an open-ended piece that does not set out to argue the case on any particular issue but it does focus one's thoughts on mental health: on patients, carers and our own attitudes. Everyone will know someone who has a mental health problem of some kind during their lives, even if they are lucky enough not to suffer themselves. This play is a stimulus to talking about such problems and can only lead to greater understanding.




Patricia graduated from Sao Judas Tadeu University, Sao Paulo, Brazil as an actress. She started learning lighting design and technical skills at university and later at LAMDA Summer Lighting School.

Lighting and stage management experience includes Graciliano Ramos's 'Vidas Secas' (2005) and Gil Vicente's 'Auto da Barca do Inferno' (2006) at the SJT University's Repertoire Company, and all the performances of Nihil Theatre Company from 1998 until 2006, in which she was also involved as an actress.

In London 2008/2009 Patricia worked on: Thorton Wilder's 'Long Christmas Dinner' and 'Love and how to cure it' and Caryl Churchill's 'Fen' at Morley College Acting Studio, Valerie Clarke's 'The Storm' with the Bedlamb Theatre Company, Martin McDonaugh's 'Skull in Connemara', Alex Loveless's 'Dracula', Peter Hamilton's 'Basildon' at the White Bear Theatre, Vinicius Salles's 'Copycat' at The Place and Sandra Maturana's 'Alice's Shadow' at TARA Studio.



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Annabel has been involved with a wide range of productions since graduating from Central School of Speech and Drama. These include Irene in 'Tuesday' (The Pleasance), Elle in 'Elle and the Cabaret of the Cavendish Club' – Musical (295 Regent Street), and Zenocia in 'The Custom of the Country' (White Bear).

Film includes Girlfriend (featured) in Ikea Furnishing Project (Jeremy Higham) Lisa in 'Ohms' (Bruno Centofanti) and several decapitated Zombies in 'Colin' (Marc Price). Audio includes Narrator in 'Love in the Lakes' (Hart McLeod). Viral includes Girl (lead) in 'The Lung' (Channel 4 and Cancer Research).






Simon has produced over forty five plays & musicals both in London & throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. These include The Remains of the Day [2010]; Collision (also directed/Hackney Empire); Project Snowflake; Moonshadow (White Bear); In His Hands (Hackney Empire); The Smilin’ State (Hackney Empire); Dracula (White Bear); Hedwig & The Angry Inch [K52 Theatre, Frankfurt]; A Mother Speaks (Hackney Empire/New Wolsey, Ipswich/The Drum, Birmingham); The Dorchester (Jermyn Street); My Matisse (Jermyn Street); Passion (Bridewell); A… My Name Is Alice (Bridewell); Whole Lotta Shakin’ (Belgrade, Coventry); Great Balls Of Fire (Cambridge Theatre, West End); Spooky Noises (also book & co lyrics/Merlin Theatre); Countess & Cabbages (also book/Merlin Theatre); Preacherosity (Jermyn Street); Purlie (Nominated for 4 What’s On Stage Awards/Bridewell); Elegies For Angels, Punks & Raging Queens [also Executive Producer on 2001 Cast Recording/Bridewell, Globe Centre, Three Mills]; La Vie En Rose (King’s Head, Towngate Theatre); Viva O Carnaval (also co book & lyrics/Lilian Baylis Sadler’s Wells) & Ruthless (Winner of 5 Musical Stages awards/Stratford Circus, London).

He has also written and published over twenty children’s books and novels including the Mr. Dark trilogy [optioned for an animated series], the Towards the Light Fantastic Trilogy and the Norman series.

Simon recently produced Dance With Me, his first feature film, which will be in cinemas in 2009 and is currently developing two other features for production in 2009/2010. He has also presented celebrated events at St. Martin in the Fields, Hackney Empire & St. Paul’s Cathedral.

He has created and project directed a series of award-nominated social investment projects that encourage youth creativity and literacy within the community, produced a number of documentaries and short films, and promoted various exhibitions focusing on the work of up and coming artists.

Simon has been the Executive Director of London’s Bridewell Theatre, Artistic Consultant to Jermyn Street West End Studio Theatre and Chair, Trustee, Director and Consultant of numerous Charities.



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Michael Dylan graduated from the Guildhall School of Music Drama in 2007. While at Guildhall he enjoyed playing many leading roles such as Caliban in William Shakespeare's - The Tempest, Bacchus in Ted Hughes' - Tales from Ovid, Stewart in Peter Gills - Certain Young Men and Brindsley Miller in Peter Shaffer's - Black Comedy.

Michael was nominated for Spotlights Actor of the Year Award 2007



Steve has had 19 plays staged in Bristol, London, Manchester and elsewhere, and four radio plays broadcast in Britain, Ireland and Germany, including 'The Song of the Whale' and 'The Secret of Fire'.

He was writer in residence at the Finborough Theatre in London, 2004 - 2007.

Steve founded and runs Stepping Out Theatre, the country's leading mental health theatre group, working with mental health service users and producing work exploring mental health themes.

His play 'Still Life' won the Venue magazine 'Best New Play' award in 2001 and his 'Lullabies of Broadmoor' trilogy about celebrated Broadmoor patients received widespread acclaim in Bristol and London. A fourth play in the sequence is currently being researched.



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Oliver was born on tour, but not on stage or in a costume hamper in the South of England. After working as a professional dish washer for Little Chef in his youth he started in the business at 16 as a stage manager for his father on the one man show “Old Herbaceous” but then decided to waste several years getting a Maths degree from St Andrews University, train as a teacher in Bangor, Wales, teach Maths and Physics in Oxfordshire and run Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions.

Coming to his senses he ceased this frivolity and retrained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Since then he has been Macbeth on a tour of Germany [White Horse Theatre], learnt medieval medicine and been a plague Doctor [Warwick Castle], been a mad, bald, dirty, psychotic, giggling fairy [Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre]. He’s fought in full chain mail [Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre], been a Tudor Cook [Southsea Castle], been Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ [Redgrave Theatre Bristol], Norman in ‘Round & Round the Garden’ [Wolverhampton Grand], Fagin in ‘Oliver’ [Warwick Joint Group], understudied Russ Abbot in Camelot [Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre again] and fought, screamed, sung, died, directed and generally played the fool for anyone who pays him enough in over 100 productions in the last 12 years.

He last worked with Chris Loveless in an new musical version of 'Dracula' where he got to be Van Helsing. He then acheived what is possibly his theatrical peak playing Dame Tilly Trot in 'Jack & The Beanstalk' in Solihull where he is delighted to be returning later this year as one half of the Ugly Sisters in 'Cinderella'.






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Beverley trained at Webber Douglas. Her theatre credits include All My Sons, Remembrance of Things Past and Mourning Becomes Electra (National Theatre), Way Upstream (Derby Playhouse), Illustrious Corpse (Leicester Haymarket and Soho Theatre) All My Sons (Liverpool Playhouse) and Shadow Language (Theatre 503). TV and film includes Jeffrey Archer-The Truth, Armadillo, Man and Boy, Little Miss Jocelyn, and Come Together.



Chris trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (2007). He is artistic director of Fallen Angel Theatre Company and an associate director of the White Bear Theatre and Stepping Out Theatre Company.  

Directing credits include Ray Collins Dies On Stage (Alma Bristol), Thursday Coma (Alma), Walter's Monkey (Alma), Dracula (White Bear), The Custom of the Country (White Bear) and Normal (Greenwich Playhouse). Assisting credits include Othello (Tobacco Factory) and The Demon Box (Alma).

  Producing credits include an internship with ATG in their West End production office, work with The Okai Collier Company and several fringe shows. Chris has also worked in TV and theatre as an actor and is a former member of the National Youth Theatre.



Cristina graduated from the Stage Manager and Technical Theatre course of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 2007. She furthered her training with a BA (Hons) from the Guildford School of Acting in Professional Production Skills.

Lighting design credits include, in training: Othello and Lysistrata at LAMDA's MacOwan Theatre and professionally: Anthony Neilson's Normal at the Greenwich Playhouse; The Custom of the Country at the White Bear Theatre and Dracula, also at the White Bear. This is her fourth design with Fallen Angel and she looks forward to more endeavours and adventures in the near future.

Cristina has also worked as a lighting technician in venues such as the Watford Palace Theatre, the Salisbury Playhouse, The Royal Court and Trafalgar Studios.



Ann has designed many productions at the Alma Tavern Theatre in Bristol for Theatre West, of which she is Joint Artistic Director. Other work includes Two Noble Kinsmen, Shang-a-Lang, Blue Heart, Far Away (all Bristol Old Vic Studio), Viral Sutra (The Finborough), Little Pictures (Old Vic Studio and tour of Latvia), Six Beckett Pieces (tour of Latvia), A Doll’s House (QEH Theatre) and various Edinburgh Fringe productions.



MFC (Mental Fight Club) - Founded in 1995, this loose association of artists and mental health service users has strong associations with William Blake and has been bringing exciting and innovative arts events to the capital for the last four years. Mental Fight Club is pleased to be a production partner on 'Moonshadow'



Partisan Theatre also produces small scale studio work on the professional fringe arising out of work with different groups in the community, including people with physical disabilities and eating disorders.

This is their fourth production.

The company's darkly comic productions have been commended for their readiness to tackle difficult themes, their sharp scripts and tight ensemble work.



Founded in 1997, Stepping Out Theatre is the country’s leading mental health theatre group. It has produced a wide range of work on mental health themes and is open to people who have used mental health services and their allies.

It offers mental health service users the opportunity to work alongside people with professional experience of writing, directing and acting, some of whom are service users themselves. The group has won two national awards in recognition of its high quality and groundbreaking work in mental health.


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The White Bear was established in 1988 and focuses on new writing and Lost Classics. It exists to nurture talent, extend possibilities and offer a space where risks can be taken.

People who have cut their teeth at The White Bear include: Joe Penhall, Emily Watson, Tamsin Outhwaite, Kwami Kwei Armah, Vicky Featherstone, Torben Betts, Lucinda Coxon.

The White Bear has received numerous awards including Time Out Best Fringe Venue, Peter Brook Empty Space Award for Best Up and Coming Venue, Carling London Fringe Awards for Best Actor and Best Production.



The Company wishes to thank

Omar F. Okai, Father Brian Ralph and the PCC of St Barnabas Church,  Century 23,  Alex Marker,  Christine Jackson and Jess Edelstein.





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...coming soon, another production of Steve Hennessy's work...

Lullabies of Broadmoor (see review) at the Finborough Theatre London

A sequence of plays forming a rich, dark, Gothic tragicomedy about murder, love, madness, personal responsibility and redemption.