To the very plush headquarters of the Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street for the Teenage Cancer Conference. We'd been worried about our pitch before arriving, but we needn't have. The audience quickly bought into the work. After we'd run the play through once we invited the audience to ask the characters questions - looking for the delegate who would be tempted into offering advice or an alternative approach to the problems so that we could encourage them on stage to demonstrate their idea.
I really enjoy the mischief of this form of jokering. It's a development from Brecht's work on the Street Scene where a confused judge asks a witness of a traffic accident to 'act out' what happened. It's a brilliant way to trick those who are either reluctant to or simply don't believe they can 'perform' to move from commentary into action. There are always experts in any field who prefer to offer advice rather than demonstrate their understanding, but as Boal, building on Brecht's work, rightly suggests 'solidarity means running the same risks' and the purpose of a forum theatre event is to collectively find resolutions to problems that effect us all.
It didn't take long for the doctors in particular to comment on the scenes and, playing up our naivete, we were able to tease them up to try out their ideas and explore in more depth some of issues behind teenage cancer care.
The real coup came towards then end when Simon Davies, the Chief Executive of TCT, accused Joe's character Dr Rudlin, of being 'crap at talking to young people' This of course was manna from heaven for Joe who responded perfectly, feigning offence and insisting Simon come up onto stage to show exactly how to deliver test results back to a sixteen year old and his Mum.
From here Michael and Katie took over as John and his Mum, playfully working together to antagonise the situation, asking questions of Simon's Doctor and demonstrating, in front of 300 delegates, how even the experts find it difficult to talk sensitively about cancer. It was a very good way to end the session.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.