Ifeyinwa Frederick’s eloquent and captivating meditation on masculinity and mental health is brought to vibrant life in this touring production from theatre company Paines Plough.
Tunde (Joseph Black) is fast approaching his thirtieth birthday and somehow, he feels his life is unravelling. His relationships both with himself and other people seem fragile and fractured, so he seeks help from his unseen therapist in one-to-one sessions to alleviate his anxieties and try to look forward with renewed confidence.
It’s not an easy journey for Tunde as the piece reveals.
This one-man performance is a fairly simple construct and much depends on both Fredericks writing and Black’s performance but what could appear to be a simply framed set of monologues morphs into something a lot more meaningful and relevant.
This is a character that desperately needs to speak his truth in order to realise his full potential and grow as an individual.
If this sounds all very earnest and overly serious, it isn’t – yes there are definitely serious discussions to be had within the course of the show, but it is to Frederick’s and Black’s credit that they never lose sight that Tunde is a warm and caring guy with a sense of humour and self. He just needs to get through things and sort himself out. He feels isolated and alone and really wants to move forward and be fixed.
Will anyone be there for him?
Sessions, which is superbly directed by Philip Morris, is a thoughtful and satisfying piece of theatre about mental health and Black’s exquisite performance is quite magnetic throughout, both engaging and at the same time quite intensive and emotional. I was totally gripped throughout.
Anna Reid’s simple yet effective set design shows both Tunde’s apartment and therapist space to great effect and both excellent lighting by Simisola Majekodunmi and the beautiful soundscape by Asaf Zohar compliment Reid’s functional set design.
The piece leads to a tantalising and open-ended conclusion which I didn’t see coming and I really wanted Tunde to get through his isolation and loneliness. Frederick’s script just piles on the emotional twists and turns, and I became totally immersed in Tunde’s story as the piece travelled to its cliff hanger conclusion.
Sessions is a much-needed piece of theatre that explores male vulnerability and mental health and how understanding and empathy can be achieved through talking and just listening.
Quite simply a superb piece of theatre.
Reviewer: Kiefer Williams
Reviewed: 25th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★