‘In the Wings’ Review: ‘A success in its candid discussion of mental health’


Durham Student Theatre’s production marks the final week of the Wellbeing at Centre Stage campaign, successfully exploring some of the everyday problems that are faced by students. As the title suggests, ‘In the Wings’ is mainly set backstage, following the lives of six students as they navigate the rehearsal and staging a production, in addition to their own personal lives. For an audience compromising mainly of students, it is refreshing to see such relatable aspects of student life depicted on stage in a candid manner. The production takes place in the Kingsgate section of Durham Students’ Union, yet perhaps would benefit from being staged at an actual theatre, in order to give the audience a better view of the action. However, this does not detract from the overall quality of the play, and the use of lighting is effective in creating an intimate, albeit simplistic, setting.

As the title suggests, ‘In the Wings’ is mainly set backstage

The production is relatable in its open discussion of the issues encountered by the students; most notably, academic pressure, relationship problems and social anxieties. In the rehearsal scenes, the frequent interruptions are humorous in nature, and this comic relief enables a break from the more serious subject matter. The compulsive checking of phones by some of the characters, and the use of everyday clothing gives the play a modern and relevant feel that is upheld through their identifiable experiences and actions. As a devised piece, ‘In the Wings’ sustains an element of authenticity, in addition to some moments of more light-hearted comedy, that make for an enjoyable and thought-provoking performance.

With regards to lighting, the incorporation of a spotlight successfully dramatizes the private reflections of the characters. These soliloquies effectively separate the inner thoughts of the characters from the rest of the narrative. ’s enthusiastic characterisation of Rosie is very impressive, and it becomes apparent that Rosie views performance as a method of relieving stress. Similarly, Richard Sharpe’s convincing depiction of Alex highlights the act of overthinking through Alex’s inner mental debate over a social commitment. These internal thoughts and worries are shared through the lives of the characters, and thus the audience is provided a detailed insight into their differing encounters with – and coping mechanisms for – stress.

ssy Flower’s enthusiastic characterisation of Rosie is very impressive

Imogen Carr’s portrayal of Katie is vivid and heartfelt, cleverly contrasting with Esalan Gates’ angsty portrayal of Martha. These characters play off one another, creating a unique and compelling dynamic. Yet, it is Joshua Harrison’s Toby that prompts the most laughter from the audience, with his comedic lines and entertaining delivery. Despite this, it soon becomes apparent that all of the characters experience stress in varying natures, and this is an important theme throughout the play. This revelation of the stresses of the characters is useful in drawing attention to the importance of discussing mental health.

A particularly striking feature of the play is the mirroring of the first and final scenes. This repetition allows the audience to reflect successfully on the chronology of the play, as well as providing a satisfactory conclusion to the plot. Additionally, the use of the screen is effective in separating the audience and the performers. For the most part, the production is set backstage, giving a personal depiction of the lives of the characters. The leadership of Danielle, played by Jia Ying Lim, seeks to unite the characters, and her later acknowledgement of the pressures of putting on a play are delivered convincingly. Many aspects of the characters’ lives are recognisable, and the production offers background into the performances of all six students – both in the play and within their own personal lives.

The ending of the play is uplifting and refreshing in its realisation of the more positive elements of life

Whilst all of the characters appear to have conflicting personalities, it is apparent that the stresses that trouble them are also able to unite them through their collective experience. Martha’s supposed apathy and Toby’s lovesickness initially appear to be incompatible, yet the course of the plot serves to establish a sense of community between the characters. The ending of the play is uplifting and refreshing in its realisation of the more positive elements of life. Overall, the production is a success in its candid discussion of mental health, and effectively conveys this to the audience in a relatable manner.

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