Review: Different Buttons, Red Rose Chain, The Avenue theatre, Ipswich,to March 28

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant

Originally written to mark the closure of Ipswich’s St Clement’s Hospital, this isn’t an easy watch but when the theatre falls dark you can’t help but feel a spark of hope.

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson

Red Rose Chain stage Different Buttons. Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant

Joanna Carrick’s play explores the lives of those treated at the hospital during its 140-year plus history. It enjoyed a critically acclaimed run at the site in 2012 and has been resurrected as part of Red Rose Chain’s debut season at new theatre The Avenue.

At the centre of the story is Ruth, played with a beautiful fragility by Lucy Telleck, who encounters ghosts from the pauper asylum’s past while waiting for a psychiatric appointment - each of whom has their own dark, sad tale to tell.

I saw the 2012 run, describing it as an intense and visceral piece; a powder keg of emotions waiting to explode. This version seemed more so. Perhaps it was the staging, with us sitting like we would in any doctor or hospital waiting room. Part of it was definitely associate director Laura Norman’s soundscape that really pulled you in.

Both elements, plus the sudden unexplained entrance of the ghosts, throws you off kilter; helping you empathise with Ruth’s predicament all the more.

Daniel Abbott as Bobby Fynn, Tom McCarron as Zachiaria Elliot and David Newborn, returning to the role of Herbert Brett, gave strong, assured performances. Each brought just the right amount of much-needed light and shade to their characters; breathing real life into them.

Special mention must go to Rachael McCormick who brought amazing pathos to the role of patient Nora Little. Listening to her story, you could almost feel your heart break. With so many people experiencing or knowing somebody who has experienced mental health issues, it’s an important tale to tell. Only by talking about it can we hope to overcome it. See it if you can.

Most Read

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter