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Speculating about schizophrenia at Oval House


Preview by Paul Nelson

COMING Up For Air tells the story of Denzil who kills three community leaders. Is it murder or manslaughter? Is he mad or just bad? Denzil claims that injustice has caused his murderous mind.

Jules, the Oxbridge educated black psychiatrist, must assess Denzil's mental and moral health. A clash of the classes rears its ugly head and misunderstanding and interpretations run rife as Jules desperately tries to explore the inner workings of Denzil's mind.

Is there a conspiracy theory? Why are there so many guns in the black community? Labelled as mad, Denzil sees himself as no longer responsible and therefore free to do whatever he chooses! Denzil believes in the survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle.

Don Kinch (author) studied at the University of London, Goldsmith's College, where he gained a BA (Drama and Sociology) and an MA (Anthropology). He currently teaches English and Performing Arts at City College Birmingham. He is also a visiting lecturer for the University of Birmingham in African Caribbean Studies and is undertaking PhD research into Afro-Caribbean theatre forms.

He has written 14 plays for the stage and a number of essays and articles for a variety of journals and magazines. Don has a long history of involvement in theatre and a commitment to the growth and development of black theatre in Britain. Whilst living in London, he was the founder and artistic director of Staunch Poets and Players and editor of Staunch Magazine.

Since moving to Birmingham, he has been at the forefront of black theatre development in the West Midlands. He founded the Third Dimension and African Peoples Theatre companies and produced Kajoyo, the first international black arts festival in the Midlands.

He is currently the artistic director for Nu Century Arts and the Nu Century Young People's Theatre Workshop and is editor of Wired Up magazine.

His plays have been performed throughout Britain, the Caribbean and the USA. Three of his plays, 'In Transit' 'Changing The Silence' and 'The Balm Yard', were broadcast on national television.

From Don Kinch: "I listened attentively to the man who told me his story. He told me of the time when, after an angry exchange with his sister, he was arrested, taken to a mental hospital and held for three weeks under section 22 on the Mental Health Act.

"He further described being physically and verbally abused, drugged and later diagnosed as schizophrenic. I was listening to a story that up until that moment was way outside my experience, imagination or indeed comprehension.

"My later research revealed that this was not an isolated incident. There were similar, if not identical stories. It also revealed highly disproportionate numbers of black people in those institutions who were diagnosed with the most severe form of mental illness; that of schizophrenia.

"He revealed also, with alarming coolness, the freedom he believed the label of schizophrenic had brought him. He was no longer responsible and therefore could do whatever he chose to do.

"This led me to speculate on the number of things he might do and his own justifications. The product of that speculation is Coming Up For Air."

Born in St. Kitts, Tyrone Huggins became actively involved in theatre at school. At Leeds University he gained a degree in Metallurgy before co-founding the experimental/visual theatre company Impact Theatre Co-operative in 1978, touring with them nationally and internationally for five years.

Whilst maintaining his links with Impact, he began working with other small-scale companies such as The People Show, Hesitate & Demonstrate and Cliffhanger, combining roles as a performer with functions as chief-technician, set-builder, and light/sound designer and operator.

Since 1979, Tyrone has performed in more than 50 theatre productions at most of the major subsidised repertory theatres in the country, including Glasgow Citizens and the Royal National Theatre, where he played in David Hare's 'State of the Nation' trilogy. He has also toured with companies such as Temba, Talawa, Paines Plough and Black Theatre Co-operative in Ray Shell's ICED.

Tyrone has written seven commissioned plays, including Choo Choo Ch' Boogie and The Carver Chair, produced at the Octagon Theatre Bolton and Contact Theatre Manchester respectively; as well as the radio play Emigrating Home for the BBC Radio 4, and dance pieces Shared Testament and Phoenix Anthology: 19 for RJC and Phoenix Dance Companies respectively.

Recently, he has written a performance piece for the Science Museum based upon the life of African American inventor, Garrett Morgan. He has also written essays on culture, theatre and race. In 2002, he wrote a new media theatre piece with the working title Railtrack - a comedy. The Inheritance Quartet is his epic narrative charting nearly 80 years of the Caribbean Diaspora.

In addition, Tyrone served for eleven years on the Board of Phoenix Dance Company, Leeds (Chair 1997-2001), is on the Board of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and is a member of the Editorial Board of the academic journal Performance Research.

Godfrey Sealy (director), has been involved in theatre in his native Trinidad and Tobago for a number of years and has been the recipient of nine 'Caciques', the Nation's yearly awards for theatrical excellence. As a writer Godfrey has written 12 plays, most of which he has also directed.

His outstanding directing accomplishments have been The Killing of Sister George, Cinderama and La Cage aux Folles, a production which earned seven Caciques, including Best Director. Godfrey has worked extensively in folk, popular and carnival theatre, directing productions for the yearly folk festival. He has done work in the Netherlands, Antilles, Montreal and Berlin. Godfrey recently directed another of his plays, Angel, performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse as part of the theatre's Black History Month programme.

Godfrey recently took part in the Oval House's First Bites, the showcase for new plays in which he presented his work, Angel.

Oval House presents Coming Up For Air, by Don Kinch, from March 26 - April 5. Oval House, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11. Transport: Oval Tube (one-minute walk Northern Line) Access: Induction Loop, Upstairs Theatre is not wheelchair accessible. Car park for disabled visitors, on-street parking nearby.

Café: Open theatre nights for wines, beers and meals

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