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Let’s Pause There at the King’s Head Theatre

Therapy has never been for me. The counterargument is that I can’t possibly know that unless I’ve tried it. Perhaps I don’t want a joint endeavour with someone who I can only make any kind of progress in hourly chunks of time, which I must pay substantial amounts of money for: and why is it that therapists, like Sebastian (Roger Parkins) themselves end up in therapy? It would appear he cares so much about his clients that he ended up neglecting his own wellbeing, but how did he, being a psychotherapist (the distinction between this and a physiotherapist becomes apparent in one of many hilarious scenes in this laugh a minute show), not recognise the signs that all was not well in his own life, and take mitigating steps accordingly?

Blackfish Productions - Let's Pause ThereIt’s a world that Let’s Pause There gives much insight into, and based on what I’ve seen here, it’s a world I would like to continue to stay well away from, thank you very much. A group of very distinctive characters does, at least, make for good theatre. Summer Breeze (Kate Loustau), as she calls herself, is able to ‘recollect’ past lives, in which she apparently served in Henry VIII’s court and, centuries later, found herself on the fated maiden voyage of RMS Titanic. Sebastian observes she is a Westerner who has declared herself an Eastern mystic. Part of the ‘all men are inherently evil’ brigade, it’s odd that she didn’t insist on having a therapist who identifies as female.

Then there’s Tunde (Chris Rochester), a stand-up comedian who wryly observes from personal experience that growing up during the Sierra Leone Civil War gave him the resilience to withstand Saturday nights in Barnsley town centre years later. A long scene allows Tunde to go into details about what happened, not so much to him but to members of his immediate family, and it is through his story that the holistic nature of psychotherapy becomes apparent: everything is, however broadly, connected to everything else, and a person’s issues cannot therefore be tackled in isolation.

In the end, though, it’s a show written for laughs. Some come courtesy of Roberta (Abigail Williams), Sebastian’s ex – having recently seen a production so inoffensive it was bland, it’s refreshing to hear someone speak their mind so frankly. It’s almost a pity Roberta and Summer never meet. There’s also Babooshka, otherwise known as Babs (Kate Loustau), Sebastian’s current significant other (or is she?) – on one level it’s puerile but I nonetheless quite liked a punchline about her not being from Russia: her parents were and are huge fans of Kate Bush.

Completing the onstage characters is Barry Bremner (James Marchant), a stereotypical alpha male who shouts down the phone at whoever he’s talking to on a morning rush hour commuter train, with obnoxious remarks. Sebastian gets his own back in a rather contrived manner, but again the comic effect is strong. Presumably written pre-pandemic, everyone seems to spend exorbitant amounts of time on moving trains, whether mainline or London Underground, and this production does brilliantly to capture the crowded conditions on board through a combination of movement, non-movement and sound effects.

Even the most stoic therapists find that, like Sebastian, their minds wander occasionally, and the audience is given some insights into Sebastian’s mind, invariably when a client says something that triggers a song lyric, and therefore a song, in his head. It’s a tactic that becomes slightly overused by the end. All things considered, a mixture of hilarity and poignancy makes for a highly satisfying night out.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Even therapists have bad days. Sebastian would know.

Added to his own troubles are two new clients bringing two new challenges. Summer: a new-age Californian with childhood trauma, and Babatunde: a stand up comic and survivor from war-torn Sierra Leone.

If he can just get through the day to see the love of his life then surely she will make it all better. Because she loves him as well…right?

A dark, funny and unpredictable new play about therapy, self-awareness and coping with your problems.

Contains references to suicide, sexual abuse and depictions of violence.

Roger Parkins
Kate Loustau
Chris Rochester
Abigail Williams
James Marchant

Writers Russell Obeney (he/him) and Andre Guindisson (he/him)
Director and Dramaturg Ella Murdoch (she/her)
Designer Sorcha Corcoran (she/her)
Lighting Designer Ros Chase (she/her)
Sound Designer Elijah Miller (he/him)

7th – 18th June 2022

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