Neck or Nothing
Neck or Nothing’ is the story of Jens, who after experiencing a traumatising near death encounter with a grizzly bear in his youth, spends his entire life creating a suit that will enable him to come face to face with his greatest fear.
Although initially seen as therapeutic Jens’ obsession with his suit starts to take its toll on his personal and family life, as he becomes more and more divorced from reality. Neck Or Nothing explores themes of escapism, isolation and trauma and the fantasies we construct in order to deal with them. The show will be heavily influenced by 80s disco, with an emphasis on Turkish Disco Folk.
'I would like to be, not a big Jacques Cousteau, just a little Jacques Cousteau'
The Development of Neck or Nothing
Development on Neck or Nothing has continued with generous support from Pleasance London, with both Charlie Hartill and Pleasance scratch offering time and space for new work to be created. This time the piece was developed with some new performers (Jess Barker-Wren, Peter Dewhurst and David North) to offer fresh eyes over the roles.
The Charlie Hartill Performance allowed us to explore some of Jens' monologues coupled with the visuals that inspired his ultimate goal of building his bear proof suit! As a character Jens' is inspired by 80's and 90's action films and superheroes, to the point that it has some what warped his view of the world. We have intention of further playing with these projections in the presentation of the production.
We have found that Jens as a character can be quite difficult to empathise with, due to his abrasive and driven nature. We decided that during the Pleasance Scratch we looked at ways in which we could develop his character through the eyes of the other characters positively
Overall the four days we had at Pleasance has proven to be hugely productive as we continue to create this new show.
The first stage of development for Neck or Nothing was made possible thanks to the support of The New Diorama. Over the course of a week we worked with four actors (Katy Daghorn, Brian Tynan, David North and Patrick Holt) to explore and expand on the world of these characters, the bear suit, and the long lasting effects of trauma on each of them.
Neck or Nothing is focused around three main characters. Jens (The Inventor), Martha (The Waitress) and Frank (The Brother). Having met in the donut shop that the brothers often frequent after work, Jens and Martha began a relationship. Jens fell in love with Martha's energy and wit, whilst Martha fell in love with Jens drive and passion. Ultimately she becomes deeply involved in the building of the suit with the two brothers.
We were interested in how past trauma can shape and form how the characters act within the play, we therefore worked with each actor to create monologues and improvisations that would help further explore an event from their past.
We also plotted what an average day in the life would of these three characters would look like, plotting there full existence from waking up to going to bed.
The suit plays a major role in this production, we see Jens become more and more driven to build something that will be both revolutionary and spectacular. He believes that once he's completed the suit he will be safe from the fear that has driven him to build it. In reality, it is a cumbersome piece of armour made up of spare parts that doesn't provide him any real protection at all.
During the development period actors were tasked with building a prototype paper suit, describing the intricate parts that help make it work, figuring out how someone would move in it and the relationship each of their characters has to the suit.
Through a series of workshops we have looked at the relationships between our three protagonists and how Jens' bear attack has effected them years on. We also explored their past and how their relationships have changed under Jens' increasingly obsessive behaviour whilst building the suit.
Using the effects of Jens' trauma, we were able to look at how he views the people around him. This opened up the possibility of a second reality that exists only in the mind of Jens. The actors were then given a series of duologues and tasked with re-creating alternate fantasy versions of them that existed within Jens' mind.
Trauma and It's Effects
As part of this production, we will be looking at trauma and how it can manifest into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To get a better understanding of the condition and it's treatment we were able to speak to Dr Einar Jenssen, an expert in the field of PTSD who practices at The London Psycotherapy and Trauma Centre. You can listen to the full interview below
Dr Jenssen also put us on to the book 'Trauma Is Really Strange' By Steve Haines.
This easy to follow book answers the questions:
What is trauma?
How does it change the way our brains work?
And how can we overcome it?
Utilising these resources have given us the opportunity to develop each character with a more in depth psychological understanding of how an untreated early life trauma can manifest itself in later life behaviour.