Bedlam, Sewell Barn Theatre, 23 February 2013

Bedlam - Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich. 23rd February 2013 *********************************SPOILERS**************************************

I saw Bedlam last night (written by Nell Leyshon and directed by Robert Little) at Sewell Barn Theatre in Norwich. I went predominantly because my friend was playing Gardenia. I am very glad that I did grab a ticket. It is an amazing play and had more people on Sewell Barn’s small stage than I have ever seen in a small production. 

The best place to watch the play from was definitely in the middle section of the Theatre. There was so much going on all over the stage that I am sure that some of the experience must have been slightly lessened by being sat at the edges. There were cells built into upper and lower levels of the set (designed by Gemma Goodwin) where the hospitals inhabitants were placed between scenes. The dirty, dishevelled and seemingly bruised and battered actors and actresses remained in character in the cells in the background throughout the play. Some rocking, some whimpering, talking to themselves, crying, or screaming.
The play was set in Bedlam, London’s infamous lunatic asylum at the time in which the consumption of gin was all the rage. The story followed the gradual fall into madness of the Mad Doctor becoming the “mad doctor”. Intertwined with his spiral down into drunkeness, debauchery and disease induced insanity, were the stories of the asylum’s inhabitants.

The story of the crazy artist who, when he had completed a painting of his sister, removed her head, poached and then ate it. The tale of a girl whose soul mate went to sea and when he didn’t return she fell into a madness of loss and despair. A lover used and thrown away by a pompous, self-obsessed, narcissist poet was driven crazy when her new born bastard was snatched away from her after birth. The sex obsessed pest forever trying to grope and molest.

There was a lot of man-handling of the actors. They were beaten, stripped, dragged, scrubbed, had their hair pulled and were thrown into cells regularly throughout the course of the evening. The weirdest moment was towards the end of the play when the girl playing May chose to stare up into the crowd and seemingly right at me whilst she was talking. I actually have no idea what she said. I found being stared at disturbing and I must have looked as crazy as she did as I tried to swivel my eyeballs in every possible direction to ensure that they didn’t stare back into hers. From overhearing the conversations of the women behind me, they had had the same experience.

The play had drama and comedy. It had music, singing, love lost and love found, sex, violence, drunkeness and audience participation. It had everything. For me the mad doctor, May and the drunken gin seller really shined as characters. The acting was incredible. Absolutely loved it.


MAY    Naomi Miller  
JOHN     Baz  
STELLA    Hannah Kerin    
SAL    Gillian Dean 
NANCY    Danielle Warne  
LAURENCE   Daniel Herman
SAMUEL   Terry Dabbs  
GARDENIA   Tracie Harris   
OLIVER    James Thomson   
PHYLLIS    Ruth Bennett   
RICHARD   Jesse Kirkbride  
ANNABEL   Ruth Howitt  
Dr SIDNEY CAREW  Peter Wood  
BILLY     Will Barrett 
Dr MATTHEW CAREW  Luke  Owen  
NARRATOR   Hazel Wilson 
Dr DAVID MAYNARD  Joe Nemeth  

Caroline White
Martin Dabbs
Mason Burrell
Charlotte Burrell
Rebecca Howell

There are still performances running from 27 February 27- 2 March 2013. Performances start at 7.30pm and there is also a matinee on Saturday 2 March at 2.30pm. Tickets can be bought from customer services, second floor, Jarrolds, Norwich, or by phoning 01603 697248.


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