Dan Phillips directs David Hendon’s critically acclaimed one-man play Banana Crabtree Simon, exploring one man’s struggle with early onset dementia and the way it affects those around him, at the Back Room of the Star Inn,.

Starring CJ de Mooi as Alan, this emotional and honest piece of theatre is based on a subject that touches so many lives.  It was first performed at the Drayton Arms in March 2018, receiving 5-star reviews and Offie Award (Off West End Theatre Award) nominations for Best New Play and Best Actor.

Banana Crabtree Simon, directed by Dan Phillips, is at The Back Room of The Star Inn Thursday 12 – Saturday 14 November 2020. Tickets are on sale here

You’re directing Banana Crabtree Simon at the Back Room of The Star Inn, what can you tell us about the play?

Banana Crabtree Simon is about one man’s journey into early onset dementia. As we only ever hear Alan’s side of the story, we get to see the confusion and frustration from the other side, the side that believes they are ‘fine’, compared to most plays which look at how it affects those around them. It’s a beautiful, often funny piece that explores a type of dementia that is rarely covered in the media but is in fact the most brutal.

What was it about David Hendon’s writing that made you want to be a part of this project again?

David manages to create a piece that feels universally accessible. Although most of us will come into contact with dementia at some point in our lives, we all can relate to that feeling of not being heard, or not being understood, and this is the core tragedy of the play.

Coming back was not a question, we had such a wonderful response from people directly affected by dementia which really hit home the importance of work like this, and being able to offer it to more people is such a rewarding experience.

It ran two years ago, with CJ de Mooi playing Alan then too, does that it make it easier or more difficult for you as a director, coming back to something you’ve worked on previously?

Coming back to work is weird. You think you know it inside out and so assume it’s going to be easy but when it’s great writing like this, you just spend your time uncovering more and more and so the chance to go deeper and alter moments and add more depth to others is a great opportunity.

What do you think might change, if anything, for this upcoming production?

Review Banana Crabtree Simon at The Drayton Arms Theatre
Banana Crabtree Simon at The Drayton Arms Theatre

For me, there are moments in the previous outing that I wasn’t completely happy with which always happens once an audience gets involved and so this is a chance to pull those moments apart and see what I think was missing. Also, we want to keep it fresh and a lot has happened in two years so you have to take things into account that wouldn’t have been relevant the first time around.

Why do you think it is important plays like Banana Crabtree Simon are getting back on to the stage, especially in the current circumstances?

We are stuck in a heartbreaking time when lots of theatres remain dark and some are closing or losing their staff, and so changing and developing the way we work is going to be pivotal in the return of live performance.

Yes, we miss theatre but it has always been important to me that we don’t just create content for the sake of it. There was suddenly an oversaturation of online content as everyone panicked and I had to stand back and think about the work that was important to me.

When Nick Wyschna (producer) and myself got talking we found a mutual frustration in the lack of coverage and support for the fringe theatre and smaller producers and so we decided we wanted to try and get some work on, safely and economically and this particular play felt perfect. We need to get people back into theatre spaces as this isn’t going away in a rush and we need to find work that can be produced at a high quality but economically and safely and hopefully over the next year we can build and grow.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Banana Crabtree Simon?

Don’t be put off by the subject matter!! It is a play exploring a very tragic illness, but done with energy and humour and you will walk away not only entertained and moved but with a little more understanding and empathy. Hopefully it will be something that sticks with you for a while.

 

Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly

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