Review Choo Choo, Stammermouth, Sherman Theatre by Charlotte Hall.

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

(Please note this review features an overview of the productions plot)

Choo Choo is a play that is said to give ‘an entertaining exploration’ about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, intrusive thoughts and ableism. It is a collaboration between Nye Russell- Thompson (writer and performer), Nerida Bradley (writer and director), and is co-written by Duncan Hallis (also performer) and Tafsila Khan (also assistant director).

Before the play, you could hear owls hooting and snoring, you could see a character seemingly sleeping stage right (Laura Goulden, one of the BSL interpreters, I found out later), a yellow chair and a red chair on either side of a small table in the middle, a small radio on top, and some cubed lights in the background- the amount of lights not evenly shown so perhaps this could give us a sense of uncomfortability from the start.

The start of the play saw two characters (Nye and Duncan, one dressed in a yellow top and red dungarees and the other dressed in a blue top and yellow dungarees) come on, yawn, and start their wake-up song. There was a lot of comedy in this play, even from the start, and the characters seemed a bit childlike, although they lived together and they discussed darker themes of intrusive thoughts, being that the basis of the play was Nye’s character was getting thoughts about killing his best friend. There was repetition in their daily routines and rhyme in the song, and they played games with each other all day, from the radio. On the other hand, there was also a lot of darker, adult themes with pregnancy, dying, violence, game/ talk shows (that included audience participation!) and more.
The story saw them going through the day, playing games, Nye getting intrusive thoughts, singing the same song the following day but Nye doesn’t feel as happy as normal because of the intrusive thoughts he had last night. Then playing a game as a talk show getting requests from listeners/ audience members, and Nye gave a request to Duncan disguised as an audience member, to explain his intrusive thoughts and what should he do about it. With Duncan then replying saying he was a bad person and he should feel guilty etc, which made Nye feel even worse.

There is radio static at home before they go to bed, of Nye hearing a train get louder and the lights getting brighter, before the new day, which is the day that they are supposed to go on holiday together. Nye doesn’t want to come (he has been trying to isolate himself because he doesn’t want to do anything to hurt Duncan) and so Duncan goes to the train station (for the holiday) by himself, and the train is delayed. The Transport for Wales announcement tells him about intrusive thoughts and OCD, and how his friend is feeling, and then Nye appears at the station. Nye and Duncan hold onto each other over the platform edge, as Duncan is reassuring him that Nye won’t hurt him. They end the show by demonstrating how intrusive thoughts are okay to have, and you shouldn’t be scared of them making you be a bad person, because they are just thoughts, and we are not our thoughts. This is shown through them saying an intrusive thought, like putting the iron over your hand, pushing someone over the edge of the train platform, and the audience would clap if they had ever had that thought.

I enjoyed that there was a lot of comedy in the show and it was light-hearted when Nye wasn’t worrying about hurting his friend, but I didn’t see how it was about ableism and linking to OCD. He was starting to isolate himself, not leave the house, and I can see how intrusive thoughts link to OCD, about how people with OCD can think that they have to do certain things otherwise bad things will happen to people they love, but I don’t see where that fits in, in the show. It had promising writing, but the themes weren’t hard hitting in my opinion, as compared to the other shows I have seen and reviewed were I felt affected and emotional coming out of it.

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