We Are Rosa Parks, now available in the Writing & Essays section.
Up the winding stairs and passed the theatre offices of The Playhouse, there is a small dark space known only as The Studio. This cosy little corner of one of Liverpool’s oldest theatres has been transformed into the fictional world of Cartoonopolis. Written and performed by Lewis Bray, it tells the true story of his family’s struggle and joy raising Jack, Lewis’ autistic younger brother.
Cartoonopolis is Jack’s reality, a menacing cartoon underworld in which the likes of Tom, Jerry and Batman live alongside Jack’s own creations. Jack fulfils the role of a mild mannered mayor of the city, bullied by his nemesis, Mayor Sharp, a dastardly villain who is feared and hated by all who inhabit Cartoonopolis.
Lewis, in the role of his brother, does a wonderful job evoking a fantasy world in which cartoons live alongside human beings. It lends a Who Framed Roger Rabbit feel to the overall production, especially when the proceedings are interrupted by one of the other family members. Bev, a Peter Kay-esque portrayal of their mother, is a woman who loves and worries about Jack in equal measure. She spends her time researching autism online, reading books and tormenting herself over what might happen to Jack once he becomes a man. She threats about the decisions he will be unable to make and the support he will be given, or not given once parental responsibility is legally taken away. She is a kind and strong woman, a caricature lovingly portrayed by Lewis who obviously sees her as a hero.
The other accidental occupant of Cartoonopolis is Nige, the charmingly optimistic dad obsessed with ‘How to’ YouTube videos. Whilst Bev ponders the future, Nige takes each day as it comes, hoping for the best and ably dealing with the worst.
Lewis, if anything underplays his role in his family. We see him looking after his brother, making sure his sandwiches are always cut into eight, participating in adventures in Cartoonopolis and taking his brother to the hospital when he falls sick with suspected appendicitis. Lewis seems quiet compared to Jack, reserved in contrast to the unstoppable ball of energy that is Jack. It feels like Cartoonopolis is Lewis’ chance to see the world through his brother’s eyes, and have a damn good time while he’s doing it.
What Lewis Bray does with Cartoonopolis is quite an accomplishment, part stand up, part schizophrenic monologue, it is a feat of accomplished storytelling which isn’t seen often enough. Whilst always funny, it is consistently punctuated by the highs and lows of a life lived with someone diagnosed as autistic. This touching portrayal of his family thankfully never falls too far into sentimentalism, nor does it tip too far into the absurd. It feels a little overlong at 90 minutes, but the jokes are so genuinely laugh out loud funny that it’s barely noticeable. In comparison to the rest of the play, the confrontation with Mayor Sharp feels a little unsubtle. Still a well written moment but determined to make it’s point, it’s also a curious foray into Jack’s own insight into his condition and how it’s/he is viewed.
Cartoonopolis is a funny, well-written, touching and clever look at autism, mostly though it’s about family and the power of sticking together no matter what happens. The very worst thing about Cartoonopolis however, is its indecently short run in The Studio.
A Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse production, funded by the e&P Ignition Project:
Written and performed by Lewis Bray
Directed by Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson
Liverpool Playhouse Studio from Thursday 5 to Saturday 14 February
Tickets: £10 – £12
This article also featured in Liverpool Confidential on 11 February 2015
Poster I designed for The Real Junk Food Project. If you’re in Leeds on Saturday 7th February 2015, please be sure to check this out. This is a great project attempting to stop food waste, it’s run by dedicated people and it deserves our support.
Written by Indigo River
Performed by David J Bradley
Directed by Angela Pearsall
Filmed by Nathan Barguss
Performed as part of Writers LABB: Fetish!
Filmed at House, 25 Bold Street Liverpool – 15th April 2014
All rights reserved – © 2014
Thank you to all the people who have been and have started following my site. I’ve spent the day redeveloping the site, I’ve changed the overall look – mainly to make the site easier to update. Some of the blog posts are now in either the Writing & Essay or Research sections and I’ve also added a Contact page and Art section. Please explore.
In October last year I responded to call out for ‘artists, writers and theatre practitioners’ to join Alan Dunn and Jeff Young in a collaborative experiment surrounding their long term project – Ray + Julie. This was to be a five day long workshop which formed part of the Everyman’s Everyword Festival. 10 artists and writers were gathered together to respond to the Ray and Julie chair installation on Liverpool’s London Road, we had five days to produce work and form it into an overall collaborative installation. The performance took place on Sunday 26 October 2014 and involved a soundscape, photography and film as well as two actors performing various extracts of the written work.
The overall installation was an amalgamation of the contributors various works, however, all the written pieces were recorded on the Saturday with the actors in the Everyman’s recording studio. For me this was a rare opportunity to hear a piece of my work and subsequently manipulate the recording into my individual response to the brief. I wanted to make a piece of sound from this because I’ve never had the chance to do this before with my own work. I’m very much a novice at this so please forgive the crassness of the recording/blending of the tracks – consider this a sound sketch. Whilst I’m not convinced that all elements of this work, it’s been interesting to do and see how my own writing can work as sound.
Below is a selection of photographs I took on the first day when we all met at the Ray and Julie Chairs on London Road.
A house. Isolated from the world by fields and hedges, alternatively draped in shadow – illuminated by almost divine light.
Day breaks and the sound here is nothing more than the static of recorded air on a nondescript day. A bird chirrups in the distance. A synth draws us in to an ambient musing as rays of sun break through grey clouds and filter in through the window. The birds tweet outside, amplifying a distance, a loneliness – theirs is the echo of a world long since gone. There are shadows inside the house, an uneasy disquiet distilled in unexpected electronic rhythms. I place my foot on the stair and a modulating sound carries me discretely, ghost-like, to the mezzanine. I listen to the waking of inanimate objects until the wind whistles through tiny holes in the walls and the oncoming storm makes itself known. I seek refuge in taut cables and firing synapses, listening to indistinct computer voices talk to each other. They sound like eggs bobbing in boiling water, there is warmth in these voices, a glimpse of home but I am lost in fibre optics which are so very far from comfort. I switch off again and allow myself to regenerate.
Faeries dance on the pond, skate across the gently lapping waters sculpting dew drops on the tips of leaves. They’re invaded by the repetitious interlude of humming electricity, something is waking. A burrowing creature, assaulting the earth, antennae brushing the fibre optics and confusing the worlds, leaving me stranded between dreams and consciousness. Light filters through half-closed eyelids, I don’t open them until I hear the wind in the glass bottles which hang like charms from the December trees.
The grandfather clock ticks and rays of sunshine fill the room, shedding light on half remembered memories like fireflies emerging from shadow. The impression fades away as quickly as it emerged, warmth is quickly replaced by a cold electronic world of unfathomable reality. The discordant sound of a radio being tuned, dialled too fast between stations so not a single voice is heard. It settles, leaving its trace to throb like a migraine. I move away from the house to the pond outside, no fae to be found, just the transcendence of fading light illuminating the hidden depths. I enter the pond, bubbles on my skin rise to the surface and transmute into computer song – the two sounds barely distinguishable from one another. Under the pond there is a cave, dripping with water and breaking glass. Home again, somehow. Back to the room with ticking time and a sense of loss; not an empty, unbearable loss but the sadness of losing those it is hard to live without. At the end of the corridor there is a darker place, a waking reality of pre-recorded static – a grey day waiting to begin.