'If it's a soap on a stage, it's a bloody good one...'
The latest play by Lower Broughton's Stevie Helps hits the Northern Quarter stage, at Gullivers on 20th and 27th September, tackling subjects like personality disorder amongst other things.
Originally hailing from London, Stevie has found home in Salford... "I lived in a few places...London, Essex and York...but there's nowhere like Salford" he says "It's all about the people: they're real, and they take you in."
Stevie has been here for six years. He studied acting in York and has even attended courses ran by RADA. Since settling in Broughton, Stevie has chosen to slowly move away from acting and now focuses more on writing, teaching and producing via the New Live Theatre Company.
The new production by this company, Mind's A Labyrinth, centres on Rachael's struggle with a personality disorder and difficult family relationships. The play has depth and a serious message about the effects of emotional instability. However, it isn't all doom and gloom...
"Nothing's completely dark" Stevie warmly states "The subject matter invites humour, even in the serious moments; there is a macabre aspect to it..."
He believes that issues are there to be laughed at, "It's how we deal with tragedy" he explains.
Stevie openly talks about his own issues with personality disorder and how it can lead to poor decision making... "Often you act on impulse, which isn't usually the most informed way to react when in a heightened emotional state." This makes the characters believable; as Stevie explains, "Nobody is always good and no-one is always bad. The play reflects that..."
It seems that the trait of inconsistency is quite pronounced when personality disorder is evident. It is a daunting undertaking to sensitively sculpt characters with heightened attributes; given that they have to still be simultaneously consistent and unpredictable.
"The characters can be likeable and detestable within seconds" he says. This helps to move the play along in a spiky manner, with odd occurrences and genuine poetic touches. Rachael ultimately is looking for the love that she feels is missing from her family life, and the play questions how she would react if the alien notion of love was to appear.
Mind's A Labyrinth started life as different play entitled Borderline Electra... "It has evolved from there" Stevie says "There's a new element that's been added and the ending isn't just unpredictable, it's open to interpretation."
Borderline Electra had an interesting electro musical accompaniment, and, intriguingly, Mind's A Labyrinth has a live soundtrack, too. This time it's provided by singer-songwriter, and upcoming YouTube star, Lizzie Tupman.
Her beautiful cover of Billy Idol's Eyes Without a Face is definitely worth a look on Lizzie's channel (see here). During the play, she performs an array of songs that dovetail neatly with the narrative. Songs by Bjork and Lush are utilised to give insight into the mood of the characters, and help to set the tone.
It makes the play a versatile piece that can be enjoyed in different ways. Mind's A Labyrinth taps into the rich British tradition of kitchen sink drama, and skilfully manages to confront prominent contemporary issues.
I ask Stevie if he sees it as a kitchen sink drama... "I suppose there are elements of that" he replies "If it's a soap on a stage...it's a bloody good one..."
Mind's A Labyrinth
Tuesday 20th September and 27th September 6:30pm and 9pm
Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LW
Tickets £7.50 online/£9 on the door Ė click here
For more information all things Stevie Helps and New Live Theatre see the website Ė click here