A brand new lyrical version of Stevie Helps’ dark and surreal production ‘RACHEL’ is set to play at The Lowry (Aldridge Studio Theatre) in January 2018. Having gone through several incarnations, which have all been shown around Manchester and Salford since 2015, performing to sold out audiences, the play is set to perform what the author has suggested will be his final version of the show next year.
RACHEL is an extraordinary piece of stagecraft from Award Winning Theatre Practitioner/Director and Manchester Hub Drama Acting Coach Stevie Helps. Based on some of the author’s personal experiences of mental health and psychiatric hospitals. This evolved production features touching live music with dark and emotional content. From melodrama to physical theatre, this show has it all and is guaranteed to leave audiences talking. The unconventional play with a personality disorder of its very own.
RACHEL HAS 10,000 HEADS AND A BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER
“Rachel is all about consequences” states playwright Stevie Helps, “such as when people in a position of care don’t carry out their duty correctly or when relationships are abusive and the devastating affects of what can happen if these things are not prevented. The consequences of someone with power not being taken care of themselves. The consequences of government cuts play a part in the play, too. The play is about the consequences of neglect and failing to act.”
Everything in Rachel’s life is crumbling. She has suffered a whirlwind of abuse in her life, but now is the abused becoming the abuser? With a villainous Father and a new lovable love interest, can she break free from her prison of torment, or will she forever remain a pawn in a squiggly wiggly game of oopsies?
“Much of what I have to say in ‘RACHEL’ is from a real place.” reveals Helps, “It’s based on some true stories and include some of my very own. It’s cathartic and many people who have seen it have described it to me as cathartic.” With much focus on mental health, with central character(s), Rachel, being diagnosed with a Borderline Personality Disorder (“amongst other stuff”), the play is definitely not a self help guide. “I am not handing out advice for people with mental health,” he continues “I am bleak about the [mental health] services because my experiences were pretty bleak and stuff I saw happen was pretty bleak. The play is not offering loads of hope and places to go, instead it’s saying this is what could happen if something more isn’t done.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as woven into Stevie Helps’ lyrical writing is a healthy injection of dark comedy which has developed since the play previewed at an intimate venue in 2015. “I think things are big, and at times funny, in the play because that’s how I remember things – especially being manic at times during my experiences – I wanted the play to feel like mental health itself.” shares Helps “I have been told the play is impossible to label. I think waking up at three in the morning knowing that I need to add this or take out something, living with the play and it’s content for so long, has helped it stand out from the rest. I think the response from audiences has got better and better and Z-Arts was the biggest buzz yet. I was very satisfied with the version performed at Z-Arts, but there was one last direction I knew I wanted to take the play in.”
On asking why this version is different and what has changed since it was last at The Lowry, he goes on to say “I have developed new characters, added more personal touches by including the songs and adding a few more of my own experiences in the play of things I witnessed and went through. I think the play is quite honest, even though it might feel exaggerated and big – but that is how I experienced things during those dark times. I believe if you’re going to do a play like this you can’t hide away. I had mostly shitty experiences with mental health services and psychiatric hospitals,” he discloses “but by making the play, hopefully something positive has come out of it. It’s risky, because mental health is very individual, so the only way I could do it justice, in my opinion, was to bring my own experiences that are real to me. I guess I met a lot of people and experienced a lot of things during my numerous stays in those psychiatric hospitals in 2008 to 2013, when I was given a few separate diagnoses’.”
With a musical-esque twist now being given to the play, which performed earlier this year at Z-Arts Theatre, Hulme, to great acclaim, Helps seems excited for audiences to experience the new adaptation. “It’s not a musical, but I have added songs which I have written throughout my life,” he explains “and a couple I wrote specifically for the play. There are songs in the play that I had written whilst in the hospitals.”
Come and experience Rachel, and 13 other exciting characters, in this winding tale of drama, which plunges deep into melodrama, comedy, surrealism… and realism, in a unique piece of Theatre.
RACHEL will show for just one night on Saturday 13th January in The Lowry’s prestigious Aldridge Studio Theatre, which aims to offer a platform to only the best new writing and productions in the region. Having caught previous versions of the show, I urge you to book your tickets now for what is sure to be an unmissable evening of enthralling theatre, if previous experience is anything to go by.